The characterization of Aaron : threshold encounters in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.




Buell, Susan Darr.

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This study presents a reader-constructed portrait of Aaron, the high priest of the ancient Israelite people. The portrait was developed according to the literary theory which proposes that a narrative character is an interdividual defined by the other characters with whom he interacts at the moment of their direct meeting. That point of interaction is designated as a threshold encounter. Therefore, texts for the study were selected based upon Aaron’s engagement in various threshold encounters. These include Exodus 32 (the golden calf incident), Leviticus 10 (the destruction of Nadab and Abihu during the inaugural sacrificial service), Numbers 12 (Miriam’s and Aaron’s challenge to Moses’ authority), and Numbers 20:1-13 (Moses’ disobedience of Yahweh). These four texts were examined from both literary and reader response perspectives. The study concludes that Aaron was a complex interdividual, as revealed through his action and speech in response to Yahweh, his sister Miriam, his brother Moses, and the Israelite people, as well as through contrast with Moses and with his own previous responses. In the narrative of the Pentateuch, Aaron presents as a character who possesses both positive qualities and unfortunate foibles. The study identifies a number of his traits which are consistently displayed across multiple threshold encounters. Additionally, the study concludes that several aspects of Aaron’s character change over the course of the pentateuchal narrative.