Moses and Aaron are the two brothers who lead the Israelites out of Egypt. But they are much more. They are the first set of siblings in the Bible to get along.
Remember Cain and Abel, or Jacob and Esau? Or perhaps you recall when Joseph’s brothers tried to murder him?
The closeness between Moses and Aaron is even more remarkable because Aaron was the older brother. He would have been the natural leader. Yet, Moses is the one chosen by God.
He leads the Israelites out of Egypt and receives the Ten Commandments.
Was Aaron jealous? Not at all. He loves Moses. He serves him. He supports him. The remarkable partnership between Moses and Aaron guides the Israelites across the wilderness toward the Promised Land.
Yet, despite their partnership and their shared devotion, Moses and Aaron are quite different. They complement rather than mirror one another. They bring unique qualities, given to themby God, to their leadership.
In counseling wedding couples, I often talk about Moses and Aaron (yes, I know, not the most romantic subject) as an example of two people bringing different qualities in pursuit of a shared mission. One person in the couple typically identifies more strongly with Moses, and the other more with Aaron.
Looking at the differences between Moses and Aaron not only helps us understand the Bible. Understanding those differences gives us a window into ourselves and our similarities and differences with those with whom we share life.
The differences between Moses and Aaron can even serve as a kind of personality test. We can look at different people and determine whether they resemble Moses or Aaron. That determination can help us understand their actions and even emphasize with them when we disagree or get frustrated.
An important note: one quality is not better than other. They each have their time and place. As Ecclesiastes reminds us.
So now that we Moses and Aaron display different characteristics, let us look more closely at what they are and why they matter.
1. Moses Chastises. Aaron Comforts: Moses was a prophet. The role of the prophet in ancient Israel was to urge the people to follow God’s laws and walk in God’s ways. Prophets confronted. They prodded. They challenged.
Prophets also encountered animosity. Remember, right after Moses arrives in Egypt intent on fulfilling God’s promise to free the Israelites, he kills an Egyptian, and his fellow Israelites get angry at his insolent act.
In the wilderness, the Israelites complain as Moses pushes them forward. Even though the prophet is necessary, he is not often welcomed.
Aaron, on the other hand, is the consummate priest. The priest comforts the people. He heals. He speaks soothingly.
The priest is calm in the wake of the storm. The prophet is the thunder within it.
A prophet pushes people out of their comfort zone. A priest reinforces the comfort zone so that the people remain together.
2. Moses walks ahead of the people. Aaron walks with the people.
As a prophet, Moses is driven by a fervor for God’s word. He is quick to respond and eager to lead. When God calls him out of his life as a shepherd, he goes. When God tells him to challenge Pharaoh, he complies. When God tells him to ascend Mount Sinai and leave the people at the foot of the mountain, he complies.
Aaron is less proactive. He does not challenge the people when they build an idolatrous Golden Calf. Instead, he helps them gather gold for it. He responds to their demands rather than demanding more of them.
Aaron’s closeness with the Israelites makes him beloved. The people mourn for 30 days when he dies. But it also means he has trouble standing up to them when God demands that he do so.
3. Moses speaks. Aaron listens.
Moses’ seminal moments center on speaking. He says to Pharaoh, “Let My people go.” He reveals the Ten Commandments to the Israelites with words. The Bible repeatedly says, “And Moses said unto the Israelites.”
Aaron, on the other hand, does not say much. But he listens. He listens to his brother Moses and repeats his words to Pharaoh. He listens to his sister Miriam when she is frustrated with Moses. He listens to the people when they get impatient when Moses is atop Mount Sinai.
His ability to listen is part of what makes Aaron beloved. A famous Jewish legend describes Aaron as the one who always made peace between quarreling friends. He did so by listening to each one and then bringing them together. He would listen to them talk until they made their peace.
God understands human differences. God knows some of us are better speakers and some are better listeners. Some of us push ahead to build a better world. Others of us seek greater peace in the world we have. God created a world in which these different personalities coexist and enrich one another.
That’s why the partnership between Moses and Aaron worked so well. They enriched one another. Through them God enriched the world. Get your Jewish holidays cheat sheet by clicking here
Are you more like Moses or Aaron?