Tyndale Bible Dictionary

Tyndale Bible Dictionary

by Walter A. Elwell, Philip W. Comfort


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The Tyndale Bible Dictionary features the work of 139 Bible scholars in more than 1,000 informative, in-depth articles. Thousands of cross-references enable users to find additional information and details about other topics that are most important to them. With hundreds of pictures, maps, and illustrations, and the very best evangelical scholarship on the Bible, this comprehensive, single-volume Bible dictionary is the principal book in the Tyndale Reference Library and will be an important addition to anyone's Bible reference collection.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781414319452
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 03/01/2008
Series: Tyndale Reference Library Series
Pages: 1352
Product dimensions: 6.88(w) x 9.56(h) x 2.25(d)

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Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2001 Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4143-1945-2

Chapter One

AARON Moses' brother and Israel's first high priest. In the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, Aaron was Moses' spokesman and assistant during the Israelites' exodus from Egypt. Aaron was three years older than Moses and was 83 when they first confronted the pharaoh (Ex 7:7). Their sister, Miriam (Nm 26:59), must have been the eldest child, old enough to carry messages when the infant Moses was found by the pharaoh's daughter (Ex 2:1-9). Aaron's mother was Jochebed and his father was Amram, a descendant of the Kohath family of Levi's tribe (Ex 6:18-20).

Aaron and his wife, Elisheba, had four sons (Ex 6:23), who were to follow him in the priesthood (Lv 1:5). Two of them, Nadab and Abihu, violated God's instructions by performing a sacrilegious act while burning incense and were burned to death as a result (Lv 10:1-5). The priesthood was then passed on through the other two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, who also sometimes failed to carry out God's instructions precisely (10:6-20).

Aaron's prominence in the events of the exodus arose partly from the fact that he was Moses' brother. When Moses tried to avoid becoming Israel's leader on the grounds of having a speech impediment, Aaron's ability as a speaker was recognized and used by God (Ex 4:10-16).

Events of Aaron's Life The Hebrew people were slaves in Egypt at the beginning of Aaron's life. Raised as an Egyptian by one of the pharaoh's daughters, Moses had fled into the Midian Desert after killing a cruel Egyptian taskmaster (Ex 1-2). When God sent Moses back as a liberator (chs 3-4), he also sent Aaron out to meet Moses in the desert (4:27). Moses was a stranger to his people after so many years of exile, so Aaron made contact with Israel's elders for him (4:29-31). When Moses and Aaron went to see the pharaoh, God told the Egyptian monarch through the two of them to let the Israelites go (Ex 5:1). When the pharaoh made life even more miserable for the Hebrew slaves, God began to show his power to the Egyptian ruler through a series of miracles (chs 5-12). God performed the first three miracles through Aaron, using a rod (probably a shepherd's staff). The pharaoh had his palace sorcerers do similar tricks. After God brought a plague of gnats (KJV "lice") over all Egypt, the Egyptian magicians admitted defeat and said, "This is the finger of God!" (Ex 8:19, NLT). Then God brought on more plagues through Moses, culminating in the deaths of all the Egyptians' firstborn sons. Aaron was with Moses (12:1-28) when God revealed how he would "pass over" the properly marked homes of the Israelites, sparing their children on the night the Egyptian children died. That event was the origin of the Passover feast still observed by Jews today (13:1-16).

After God led the Israelites to safety and destroyed the pursuing Egyptians, Aaron participated with Moses in governing the people on their long wilderness journey to the Promised Land (Ex 16:1-6). Later, battling against Amalek's army, Aaron helped hold up Moses' weary arms in prayer to maintain God's blessing (17:8-16). Although always subordinate to Moses, Aaron seems to have been recognized as an important leader (18:12). God summoned him to be with Moses when God gave the law on Mt Sinai (19:24). Aaron was among the representatives of the people who ratified God's statutes in the Book of the Covenant (24:1-8). Aaron went with those leaders partway up the holy mountain and saw the vision of the God of Israel (24:9-10). With Hur, he was left in charge when Moses was with God on the mountaintop (vv 13-14).


Because it marked the beginning of the priesthood in Israel, the consecration of Aaron to his office was both instructive and solemn. Nothing was left to human ingenuity; all was precisely commanded of God. There were three ceremonies: washing, clothing, and anointing. When the tabernacle was finished, Aaron and his sons were set apart to the priesthood by washing (to signify purification), clothing with official garments (for beauty and glory), and anointing with oil (to picture the need of empowering by the Spirit; cf. Ex 28; 40:12-15; Lv 8). Aaron thus became the first high priest, serving nearly 40 years. The character of his office was hereditary; this is attested to by his sons' wearing his garments when they succeeded to the office of high priest (Ex 29:29-30; Nm 20:25-28). Although all priests were anointed with oil, the anointing of Aaron and his successors was distinct from that of the ordinary priests (Ex 29:7; 40:12-15; Lv 8:12). Because the priesthood was inherited, all subsequent priests had to trace their ancestry back to Aaron (Ezr 7:1-5; Lk 1:5). Also, a sharp distinction was always drawn between the family of Aaron and the rest of the Levites (cf. Nm 3:5). Thus, the high priest was designated as the anointed priest in a special sense (Lv 4:3-4; 6:20-22; 21:10).

Because of Aaron's priestly role, the NT looks upon him as prefiguring the Messiah of Israel. Jesus Christ was appointed High Priest (Heb 3:1-2) in the same way God chose Aaron (Heb 5:1-5), but he was described as a greater high priest than Aaron (Heb 7:11-28).

Moses was gone for over a month, and in a moment of weakness, Aaron gave in to the people's request for an idol to worship. He melted down their gold ornaments to make a golden image of a calf (Ex 32:1-4). (The Israelites had probably been influenced in Egypt by the cult of Apis, a fertility god in the form of a bull.) At first, Aaron seemed to think he might be doing something acceptable to God (v 5), but things got out of hand and a drunken sex orgy took place around the idol (v 6). God was angry enough to destroy the people, but Moses interceded, reminding God of his promise to multiply Abraham's descendants (Ex 32:7-14). Moses furiously confronted Aaron about the immorality and idolatry, which Aaron blamed on the people without admitting any guilt of his own (vv 21-24). Although the idolators were punished by death (Ex 32:25-28) and the whole camp by a plague (v 35), Aaron was evidently not punished. In a retelling of the events, Moses said that Aaron was in great danger but was spared because he had prayed for him (Dt 9:20).

In their second year of nomadic wilderness life, Aaron helped Moses carry out a census (Nm 1:1-3, 17-18). Eventually, Aaron may have become jealous of Moses' position of leadership, for Miriam and Aaron began to slander their brother, even though the elderly Moses was by then more humble than any man on earth (Nm 12:1-4). God's anger toward the two was averted by Moses' prayer, although Miriam did suffer for her sin (12:5-15). Aaron again seems to have escaped punishment entirely. With Moses, Aaron opposed a rebellion at Kadesh (14:1-5). He stood with Moses against a later revolt (ch 16). After a final incident at Meribah, where the Israelites almost revolted again, God accused Moses and Aaron of having failed to take him at his word and denied them entry into the Promised Land (20:1-12). Aaron died at the age of 123 on Mt Hor, after Moses had removed his elaborate priestly garments and put them on Aaron's son Eleazar (Nm 20:23-29; 33:38-39).

See also Israel, History of; Exodus, The; Wilderness Wanderings; Priests and Levites; Levi, Tribe of; Aaron's Rod.

AARONITES Collective name for the priests who descended from Aaron through his sons Eleazar and Ithamar. The term is used twice in the KJV to refer to the 3,700 men who supported David against Saul (1 Chr 12:27) and of whom Zadok later became leader (1 Chr 27:17). Both "house of Aaron" (Pss 115:10, 12; 118:3; 135:19) and "Aaron" (1 Chr 27:17, RSV) are used to refer to the Aaronites.

See also Aaron.

AARON'S ROD Staff belonging to Moses' brother, Aaron, symbolizing the two brothers' authority in Israel. When the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, a threat against Moses and Aaron's leadership was led by Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Nm 16:1-40). In spite of the Lord's destruction of those rebels and their followers, the rest of the people of Israel turned against Moses and Aaron, saying that they had killed the people of the Lord (16:41). In order to restore respect for the divinely appointed leadership, the Lord told Moses to collect a rod from each tribe and have the leader of the tribe write his name on it. Aaron was told to write his name on the rod of Levi. The rods were placed in the inner room of the tabernacle, in front of the ark (of the covenant). In the morning, Aaron's rod had sprouted blossoms and had produced ripe almonds. The rod was then kept there as a continual sign to Israel that the Lord had established the authority of Moses and Aaron (Nm 17:1-11; cf. Heb 9:4).

Following that incident the people of Israel entered the wilderness of Zin, but there was no water for them and their flocks. Again the people argued with Moses and Aaron. The Lord instructed Moses to get the rod and, in the presence of Aaron and the rest of the people, command a particular rock to bring forth water. Taking the rod, Moses asked dramatically, "Must we bring you water from this rock?" (Nm 20:10, NLT) and struck the rock twice. Water gushed out and the people drank. Yet Moses and Aaron were forbidden to enter the Promised Land because they did not sanctify the Lord in the people's eyes (Nm 20:12-13). An earlier event had provided evidence that the Lord was able to provide needed water in that manner (Ex 17:1-7).

See also Aaron.

AB Month in the Hebrew calendar, about mid-July to mid-August. See Calendars, Ancient and Modern.

ABADDON Hebrew word that means "place of destruction." The word occurs six times in the OT, generally referring to the place of the dead (Jb 26:6; 28:22; 31:12; Ps 88:11; Prv 15:11; 27:20). It serves as a synonym for Sheol and is variously translated "hell," "death," "the grave," or "destruction." The same Hebrew word occurs once in the NT in its Greek equivalent, Apollyon (Rv 9:11). Here the idea of destruction is personified as the "angel from the bottomless pit," so the word is often translated "destroyer." Abaddon (or Apollyon) was the angel reigning over the realm of the dead, who appeared after the fifth trumpet in John's vision (Rv 9:1).

See also Sheol.

ABAGTHA One of the seven eunuchs commanded by King Ahasuerus to bring Queen Vashti to his drunken party (Est 1:10).

ABANA Syrian river (modern Barada) running through the city of Damascus. Although Naaman thought the Abana would be more effective than the Jordan River in curing leprosy, he obeyed the prophet Elisha, washed in the Jordan, and was cured (2 Kgs 5:9-14; "Amana" is an alternate textual reading in 5:12).

See also Amana.

ABARIM Mountainous area located east of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, and extending northward from the plains of Moab. From the highest point on Mt Nebo, called Pisgah, located in Abarim (2,643 feet; 805 meters), Moses looked into the Promised Land shortly before he died (Dt 32:48-50; 34:1-6).

ABBA Aramaic word for "father," which is applied to God in Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15; and Galatians 4:6. The name expresses a very intimate and inseparable relationship between Christ and the Father and between believers (children) and God (Father).


1. Adoniram's father. Adoniram was superintendent of public works under King Solomon (1 Kgs 4:6).

2. Shammua's son, who was a Levite leader in Jerusalem after the exile (Neh 11:17). The same father and son are elsewhere identified as Shemaiah and Obadiah (1 Chr 9:16).

ABDEEL Shelemiah's father. Shelemiah was an officer sent by King Jehoiakim of Judah to arrest Jeremiah and Baruch after the king had read and burned their prophetic scroll (Jer 36:26).


1. Member of the Merari clan of Levites. Abdi's grandson Ethan was a musician in David's time (1 Chr 6:44; 15:17).

2. Levite whose son Kish served in Hezekiah's time (2 Chr 29:12). This Abdi has sometimes been confused with Abdi #1.

3. Member of the Elam clan in Ezra's time. This Abdi is listed as one of the Israelites who married a foreign wife after the exile (Ezr 10:26).

ABDIEL Guni's son and father of Ahi (1 Chr 5:15). Ahi was a clan leader in Gad's tribe during the reigns of King Jotham of Judah and King Jeroboam II of Israel (1 Chr 5:15-17).

ABDON (Person)

1. Hillel's son who judged Israel for eight years (Jgs 12:13-15). Abdon was a very wealthy man, as indicated by reference to the 70 donkeys he owned.

2. Shashak's son from Benjamin's tribe who lived in Jerusalem (1 Chr 8:23, 28).

3. Jeiel's oldest son from Benjamin's tribe who lived in Gibeon. This Abdon is mentioned in Saul's genealogy (1 Chr 8:30; 9:36).

4. Micah's son (2 Chr 34:20), also called Acbor, son of Micaiah. See Acbor #2.

ABDON (Place) One of four cities in Asher's territory given to the Levites after the conquest of Canaan, the Promised Land (Jos 21:30; 1 Chr 6:74). Abdon is probably the same as Ebron (Jos 19:28). Today Abdon is called Khirbet 'Abdeh.

ABEDNEGO One of Daniel's three friends who was sentenced to death by Nebuchadnezzar but was protected in the fiery furnace by an angel (Dn 1:7; 3:12-30). See Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; Daniel, Additions to (Prayer of Azariah).

ABEL (Person) Second male child of Adam and Eve (Gn 4:2). The name is probably related to Sumerian and Akkadian words meaning "son" and was thus used as a generic term for the human race.

Abel's older brother, Cain, was engaged in agriculture, but Abel himself was a shepherd. When both brothers brought offerings, God accepted Abel's animal sacrifice but rejected Cain's vegetable offering. As a result, Cain became jealous of Abel and killed him.

The narrative indicates that Abel's character was more worthy of God's blessing; hence his offering was accepted and Cain's was not (Gn 4:7). There is no scriptural evidence that cereal or vegetable offerings were less effective as either sin offerings or fellowship meals than offerings involving the shedding of blood, since in later Mosaic law both were prescribed. In the NT Abel is regarded as the first martyr (Mt 23:35; Lk 11:51; Heb 11:4).

ABEL (Place) Fortified border city in upper Galilee to which King David's general Joab pursued the rebel Sheba. After a wise woman of the city negotiated with Joab, the citizens executed Sheba and threw his head over the wall. Joab then called off the siege 2 Sm 20:13-22). The city was later conquered by the Syrian Ben-hadad during a continuing war between King Asa of Judah and King Baasha of Israel. When Asa persuaded Ben-hadad to break a treaty with Baasha, Ben-hadad took a large amount of territory, including Abel, or Abel-beth-maacah, as it was also called (1 Kgs 15:16-20). Still later, Abel-beth-maacah (sometimes called simply Abel of Beth-maacah, or Abel of Bethmaachah) was conquered by Tiglath-pileser III, and its inhabitants were taken captive to Assyria (2 Kgs 15:29). The same city is called Abel-maim ("meadow of water"), emphasizing the productivity of the region (2 Chr 16:4). The town has been identified with modern Tell Abil-el-Qamh.

ABEL-BETH-MAACAH (MAACHAH) Alternate name for Abel, a fortified city in upper Galilee in 1 Kings 15:20 and 2 Kings 15:29. It was also called Abel of Beth-Maacah (Maachah) in 2 Sm 20:14-15. See Abel (Place).

ABEL-KERAMIM City taken by Jephthah the Israelite judge when he conquered the Ammonites (Jgs 11:33). It was located south of the Jabbok River.

ABEL-MAIM Alternate name for Abel, a fortified city in upper Galilee, in 2 Chronicles 16:4. See Abel (Place).

ABEL-MEHOLAH Birthplace of the prophet Elisha (1 Kgs 19:16). Here Elijah found Elisha plowing and threw his coat over Elisha's shoulders, symbolizing God's call to Elisha to become a prophet (1 Kgs 19:19-21). The town is earlier mentioned as one place to which the Midianites fled from Gideon's 300 warriors (Jgs 7:22). It is also mentioned in a list of administrative districts set up by King Solomon (1 Kgs 4:12). The most likely modern identification is Khirbet Tell el-Hilu.

ABEL-MIZRAIM Alternate name for Atad, a place in Canaan, in Genesis 50:11. See Atad.

ABEL-SHITTIM Alternate name for Shittim, a place on the plains of Moab, in Numbers 33:49. See Shittim (Place).


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