These Were the Heads of the Families
of Moses and Aaron

6: 14-27

    DIG: Why do you think Moses included this genealogy into the action of the story? How would this help the Israelites when it was time to leave Egypt?

    REFLECT: What would your genealogy reveal about the role each person plays in your household? What story of your roots defined the expectations for those growing up in your household? What would a family tree indicate about your extended family and your responsibility to them or for them?

    The placement of a genealogy at this point strikes modern readers as somewhat odd. It does not fit the overall stream of the narrative. However, this is not an uncommon literary digression in ancient Near-Eastern literature. There has been great dramatic tension in the exodus story thus far, leading up to the installation of Moses and Aaron as the intercessors on behalf of Isra'el. A natural question for the reader is, “What was their genealogical status? What place did they occupy among the sons of Israel?”96

    These are the heads of their families: The clans of Reuben and Simeon are mentioned first in order to get to Levi, Jacob’s third son and Moses’ and Aaron’s ancestor. Extended families united as blood relatives comprise a clan. The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Isra'el were Hanoch and Pallu, Hezron and Carmi. These were the clans of Reuben (6:14). The sons of Simeon were Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jakin, Zohar and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman. Intermarriage with pagans was taboo in Jewish society. It’s inclusion here was possibly a subtle warning to the Jews coming out of Egypt not to do the same thing. These were the clans of Simeon (6:15).

    These were the names of the sons of Levi according to their records: Gershon, Kohath and Merari. Levi lived 137 years (16:16). The three sons mentioned here were the ancestors of the clans that were later to serve in the Tabernacle. In Numbers 3:25-37, the specific duty of each clan is described in the same order of the names given here.

    The death date is not given for everyone, only those whose names are significant for this particular genealogy. The author does not give us the ages of the other two sons when they died. Only Levi’s longevity is recorded because his is the family through which Moses, the deliverer, comes. Both Simeon and Levi were under a curse because of the slaughter of the men of Shechem (Genesis 34:25-30 and 49:5-7). So the fact that God would select the deliverer of the Jewish people from Levi shows His incredible grace.

    The genealogy of the sons of Jacob stop here because the purpose was to show where Moses and Aaron fit. Because Moses and Aaron were descendants of Jacob’s third son Levi, there was no point to go any further. Levi’s three sons were Gershon, Kohath and Merari.

    The sons of Gershon, by clans, were Libni and Shimei (6:17). The specific duties of the Gershonite clan of Levites at the Tabernacle could be divided into three main categories. First, they were responsible for the care of the Tabernacle and tent, its coverings, the curtain at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. Secondly, the curtains of the courtyard, and the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard surrounding the Tabernacle were under their care. And, finally, the Gershonites were to keep watch over the altar, the ropes and everything related to their use (Numbers 3:25-26).

    The sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel. Kohath lived 133 years (6:18). We are told how long Kohath lived because he was the important one as far as Moses and Aaron were concerned. Kohath had a son named Amram, who eventually became the father of Moses and Aaron. The clan of the Kohathites had other duties in the Tabernacle. They were responsible for the care of the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the articles of the sanctuary used in ministering, the curtain and everything related to their use (Numbers 31-32).

    The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi (6:19). The Merarites were appointed to take care of the frames of the Tabernacle, its crossbars, posts, bases, all its equipment, and everything related to their use, as well as the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs and ropes (Numbers 3:36-37). After reviewing all three sons, Gershon, Kohath and Merari, the author returns to the most important line, that which would bear Aaron and Moses.

    Amram the first son of Kohath, the son of Levi, married his father’s sister Jochebed, which means the Lord is my glory (Numbers 26:59), who bore him Aaron and Moses. In actuality, Amram married his own aunt. This was something that would later be prohibited by the Torah, but at this point it was acceptable. And because he was significant, we are told that Amram lived 137 years (6:20). The question has been asked, “Why wasn’t the life of Aaron in as much danger as the life of Moses when the command to kill the Hebrew baby boys was given by Pharaoh (1:16)? The answer is simply that Aaron was older than Moses, and the decree had not been made yet. It was not until Pharaoh saw how quickly the Israelites were increasing in number that he issued the orders to kill them.97 Interestingly, the Muslims teach that Moses was a Muslim and not a Jew because he was of the tribe of Levi, not Judah.

    The sons of Izhar, the second son of Kohath, were Korah, Nepheg and Zicri (6:21). Although it is Amram’s line that the author is most interested in, he also records the descent of Amram’s nephew Korah who was later to become a thorn in Moses’ flesh. In Numbers 16, Korah led a rebellion against the authority of Moses and Aaron.98

    Hebron, the third son of Kohath, is not mentioned.

    The sons of Uzziel, the fourth son of Kohath, were Mishael, Elzaphan and Sithri (6:22). Mishael and Elzaphan later appear in Leviticus 10. In that episode, Aaron’s two sons Nadab and Abihu offered unauthorized fire before God, and were consumed by fire because of their sin. It was Mishael and Elzaphan who carried their cousin’s bodies outside the camp of Israel, just as Moses ordered (Leviticus 10:1-4).

    Aaron married Elisheba, which means the oath of God, and the English name Elizabeth comes from this name. She was from the tribe of Judah (Numbers 2:3), and the daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nahshon, and she bore him four sons: Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar (6:23). Because the father determines the nationality and tribal origin, the four sons of Aaron are considered fully Levites, and not half Levite and half Judean. Aaron’s sons are probably mentioned because they played such an important and, in the case of Nadab and Abihu, infamous role in the early priesthood of Isra'el. They were the priests who offered unauthorized fire before God. The fact that Aaron’s wife Elisheba was the daughter of Amminadab and the sister of Nahshon was important because those two men were ancestors of King David (Ruth 4:20). That tied the royal and priestly leaders of the nation of Isra'el together from the very beginning.

    The sons of Korah were Assir, Elkanah and Abiasaph. These were the Korahite clans (6:24). The family line of Korah is specifically mentioned here because they did not take part in their father’s rebellion (Numbers 16:31-33, 26:11). In their service at the Tabernacle, the Korahites were gatekeepers who were responsible for guarding the thresholds of the Temple, just as their fathers had been responsible for guarding the entrance to the dwelling of God (First Chronicles 9:19). They even played a part in the official singing of the Tabernacle, and later the Temple (Second Chronicles 20:19), and were also Temple musicians who wrote several of the Psalms (Psalm 42. 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 84, 85, 87 and 88).

    Eleazar, son of Aaron, married one of the daughters of Putiel, and she bore him Phinehas (6:25a). After recording the infamous children of Aaron in 6:23, the author now refers to one of his most famous descendants, Phinehas. During the later wilderness wanderings, Phinehas proved to be faithful in the midst of a severe crisis of idolatry among the Hebrews (Numbers 25:1-13). Because of this courageous act, he was rewarded and made a leader of the Israelite army (Numbers 31:6). Phinehas went on to enter the Promised Land (Joshua 20:28) and served as high priest before the Tabernacle (Judges 20:28). One of the greatest Hebrew leaders, Ezra, was a descendant of Phinehas (First Chronicles 9:20). Thus, the genealogy ends on a high and positive note. These were the heads of the Levite families, clan by clan (6:25b).

    Although Aaron’s family is traced through his sons and grandson Phinehas, no lineage is provided for Moses. The reason for this may be that Moses’ second son Gershom had already been mentioned (2:22). On the other hand, the silence may have later protected the reputation of Moses because his descendants apparently became involved with idolatry. In Judges 18:30 we learn that Jonathan (the son of Gershom and the grandson of Moses), along with other members of the tribe of Dan, set up idols for themselves.

    It was this same Moses and Aaron to whom ADONAI said: Bring the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions. This had military overtones. Frequently, during the wilderness wanderings, the Israelites were organized by their divisions. They were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, about bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. It was the same Moses and Aaron (6:26-27) This time Moses’ name precedes Aaron’s because the major responsibility of the Exodus was on his shoulders.

    Moses was discouraged in Exodus 6:12. Neither the circumcised nor the un-circumcised would accept him. At that time God stepped in and gave us the background of who Moses was. Moses had to live up to God’s claims before he could deliver the children of Isra'el.

    There are those today who say that it is not essential to believe the virgin birth of Christ. I say that it is absolutely essential to believe it. It is part of the credentials of Jesus. You must trust in His death and resurrection to be saved. But when you are saved, you will come to know Him. And when you know Him, you will find out that He was born of a virgin. If not, then you made a mistake in trusting in Him because He is not who He claims to be. No one who is truly saved will deny the virgin birth of Messiah.

    It is also essential that Moses and Aaron are who they claim to be. It had been forty years since Moses left Egypt. In the meantime he had married the daughter of the priest of Midian. Now he was back in Egypt. Who was he anyway? This genealogy tells who he was. He belonged to the tribe of Levi, and his father and mother were Amram and Jochebed.99 This genealogy legitimized Moses and Aaron as official representatives, who were authorized to speak God’s word to Pharaoh.100

 

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