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AARON

OVERVIEW Aaron was Moses’ brother. He also served as Israel’s first high priest. In the Old Testament Aaron spoke for Moses, beginning in Egypt when Moses confronted Pharaoh. Aaron was Moses’ assistant during the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. Three years older than Moses, Aaron was 83 when they first confronted the pharaoh (Exodus 7:7). Their sister, Miriam (Numbers 26:59), must have been the eldest child. She carried messages when the infant Moses was found by the pharaoh’s daughter (Exodus 2:1-9). FAMILY LIFE Aaron and his wife, Elisheba, had four sons (Exodus 6:23). All followed in his footsteps, becoming priests of Israel (Leviticus 1:5). Two of them, Nadab and Abihu, violated God’s instructions. They burned the wrong kind of fire to God and were burned to death as a result (Leviticus 10:1-5). The priesthood was then passed on through the other two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar. They also did not carry out God’s instructions precisely (Leviticus 10:6-20). Aaron was an important figure in the Exodus partly because he was Moses’ brother. When God first chose Moses, he tried to avoid becoming Israel’s leader on the grounds of having a speech problem. God recognized Aaron’s ability as a speaker (Exodus 4:10-16) and told Moses that Aaron would speak for him. But Aaron also misused his leadership abilities at times, such as when he helped the people construct an idol to worship in the wilderness because Moses was taking too long in talking with God on Mount Sinai. AARON IN EGYPT The Hebrew people were slaves in Egypt at the beginning of Aaron’s life. Moses had been raised as an Egyptian by one of the pharaoh’s daughters. But he had fled into the Midian Desert after killing a cruel Egyptian slave driver (Exodus 1-2). When God sent Moses back to free his people (Exodus 3-4), he also sent Aaron out to meet Moses in the desert (Exodus 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 (Exodus 4:29-31). When Moses and Aaron went to see the pharaoh, God told the Egyptian leader through the two of them to let the Israelites go (Exodus 5:1). Instead, the pharaoh made life even more miserable for the Hebrew slaves. However, God began to show his power to the Egyptian ruler through a series of miracles (Exodus 5–12). God performed the first three miracles through Aaron, using a rod (probably a shepherd’s staff). The pharaoh had his palace magicians 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!” (Exodus 8:19, NLT). Then God brought on more plagues through Moses. The final blow was the deaths of all the Egyptians’ firstborn sons. Aaron was with Moses (Exodus 12:1-28) when God revealed how he would “pass over” the properly marked homes of the Israelites. God would spare their children on the night the Egyptian children died. That event was the origin of the Passover feast still observed by Jews today (Exodus 13:1-16). LEADERSHIP IN THE WILDERNESS God led the Israelites to safety and destroyed the pursuing Egyptians. Aaron helped Moses govern the people on their long wilderness wanderings and the journey to the Promised Land (Exodus 16:1-6). Later, battling against Amalek’s army, Aaron helped hold up Moses’ weary arms in prayer to maintain God’s blessing (Exodus 17:8-16). Though Moses led the Israelites, Aaron was seen as an important leader (Exodus 18:12). God called him to be with Moses when God gave the law on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:24). Aaron was one of the people who confirmed God’s law in the Book of the Covenant (Exodus 24:1-8). Aaron went with those leaders partway up the holy mountain. He saw the vision of the God of Israel (Exodus 24:9-10). Aaron and Hur were left in charge when Moses was with God on the mountaintop (Exodus 24:13-14). That’s when the problems began. Moses was gone for over a month. In a moment of weakness, Aaron gave in to the people’s request for an idol to worship. He melted down some of their gold items to make a golden image of a calf (Exodus 32:1-4). At first, Aaron seemed to think he might be doing something acceptable to God (Exodus 32:5). But things got out of hand, and a drunken, wild party took place around the idol (Exodus 32:6). God was angry enough to destroy the people, but Moses pleaded for them. He reminded God of his promise to multiply Abraham’s descendants (Exodus 32:7-14). Moses was furious about the immorality and idolatry. But Aaron blamed the events on the people without admitting any guilt of his own (Exodus 32:21-24). The idolators were punished by death (Exodus 32:25-28) and the whole camp by a plague (Exodus 32:35). Aaron was evidently not punished. Moses said that Aaron was in great danger but was spared because he had prayed for him (Deuteronomy 9:20). In their second year of wilderness life, Aaron helped Moses carry out a census to count the people (Numbers 1:1-3, 17-18). Aaron later became jealous of Moses’ position of leadership. He and Miriam began to talk against their brother even though Moses was the most humble man on earth (Numbers 12:1-4). God’s anger toward the two was averted by Moses’ prayer. Miriam did suffer for her sin (Numbers 12:5-15). Aaron again seems to have escaped punishment entirely. With Moses, Aaron opposed a rebellion at Kadesh (Numbers 14:1-5). He stood with Moses against a later revolt (Numbers 16). The Israelites almost revolted again at Meribah. God accused Moses and Aaron of having failed to take him at his word and denied them entry into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:1-12). THE HIGH PRIEST When God instructed Moses to build the tabernacle in the wilderness for worshiping God, he also set aside Aaron and his sons, from the tribe of the Levites, as priests (Exodus 28:3). They were given special duties in accepting offerings and conducting sacrifices. They had a special place near...

Abandonment

Any true cessation. An emptiness of a mind that has completely abandoned a delusion or other fault.

Abhidharma

Sanskrit word for `Phenomenology’. See Ocean of Nectar.

ABRAHAM

OVERVIEW Abraham is one of the Bible’s most important figures. In the Bible, Abraham is referred to as the “friend of God” (2 Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23). Though Abraham was childless, God promised him, “All the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). This seeming contradiction provided great tests of faith, promise, and fulfillment for Abraham and his wife, Sarai. In Abraham’s life, God revealed his plan of choosing and making covenants with his people. Abraham trusted God and is now known as the father of God’s own people. Abraham’s name was originally Abram, meaning “ father is exalted.” His parents were part of a moon cult in the city of Ur, and Abraham’s old name probably referred to the moon god or another pagan god. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham (Genesis 17:5) to indicate a clear-cut separation from Abram’s pagan roots. Abram’s new name meant “father of a multitude” and was a statement of God’s promise to Abraham that he would have many descendants. This name change was also a significant test of his faith in God. Abraham was 99 years old at the time, and his childless wife was 90 years old (11:30; 17:1-4, 17). ABRAHAM’S LIFE The story of Abram begins in Genesis 11, where his family tree is recorded (Genesis 11:26-32). Terah, Abram’s father, was named after the moon god worshiped at Ur. Terah had three sons: Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran, the father of Lot, died before the family left Ur. Terah took Lot, Abram, and Abram’s wife, Sarai, from Ur to go to Canaan, but they settled at the city of Haran (11:31). Acts 7:2-4 states that Abram first heard the call of God while he was still in Ur. A NEW HOME After Terah’s death, God told Abram, “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you.” This command was the basis of a God’s “covenant” with Abram. God promised to make Abram the founder of a new nation in that new land (12:1-3). Abram, trusting God’s promise, left Haran at the age of 74. Entering Canaan, Abram went first to Shechem, an important Canaanite city between Mt Gerizim and Mt Ebal. Near the oak of Moreh, a Canaanite shrine, God appeared to him (Genesis 12:7). Abram built an altar at Shechem, then moved to the vicinity of Bethel and again built an altar to the Lord (12:8). Abram not only prayed at this altar, he “called on the name of the LORD” (RSV). Abram made a proclamation, declaring the reality of his God in the Canaanites’ centers of false worship. Later Abram moved to Hebron, by the oaks of Mamre, where again he built an altar to worship God. ABRAM GETS DISCOURAGED Despite his obedience, Abram still had not received God’s promise of a son. Abram arranged for his servant, Eliezer of Damascus, to be his heir (Genesis 15:2). According to the customs of that day, a wealthy, childless couple could adopt an heir to receive its inheritance. Often a slave, the heir would be responsible for the burial and mourning of his adoptive parents. If a son should be born after the adoption of a slave-heir, the natural son would of course replace him. God responded to Abram: “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own to inherit everything I am giving you” (15:4). God then made a covenant with Abram, promising him an heir whose descendants would multiply into a nation throughout the land of Canaan. Abram and Sarai again tried to work out their own version of God’s plans. When Abram was 86 years old, he had a child by Sarai’s servant, Hagar. This child, named Ishmael, was a blessing, but he was not the one God had promised. When Abram was 99, the Lord appeared to the aging Abram and reaffirmed his promise of a son (Genesis 17). He instructed Abram to circumcise his descendants as a sign that they were God’s people (Genesis 17:9-14). He also changed the names of Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah (17:5, 15). Abraham laughed at the thought of having another son at his age: “Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. ‘How could I become a father at the age of one hundred?’ he wondered. ‘Besides, Sarah is ninety; how could she have a baby?’” (17:17). God’s timing certainly did not coincide with Abraham’s schedule, but Abraham continued to obey God and wait for his plans. GOD REAFFIRMS HIS PROMISE The destruction of two cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, provided the setting for the next step in God’s plan for Abraham (Genesis 18-19). Chapter 18 begins with three individuals seeking comfort in the heat of the day on their way to these cities. Abraham offered refreshment and a meal to his mysterious guests, who turned out to be no ordinary travelers. The Angel of the Lord along with two other angels, appeared to Abraham (Genesis 18:1-2; Genesis 19:1). Some scholars believe the Angel of the Lord was God himself (Genesis 18:17, 33). The angels announced that Abraham’s promised son would soon be on his way. This time, it was Sarah who responded to the news by laughing. ISAAC IS BORN At long last, when Abraham was 100 years old and his wife was 90, “the LORD did exactly what he had promised” (Genesis 21:1). The aged couple could not contain their joy at the birth of their long-promised son. Both Abraham and Sarah had laughed in unbelief in the days of promise; now they laughed and rejoiced at their fortune. The baby, born in God’s timing, was named Isaac (“he laughs!”). Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter! All who hear about this will laugh with me” (21:6). ABRAHAM’S FAITH IS TESTED The laughter over Isaac’s birth soon ended. In Genesis 22, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. After 25 years of waiting for God’s promise, one can imagine the trauma of such...

Absorption

A virtuous single-pointed mind of the form or formless realm. They are of two types: close preparations, which are uninterrupted paths, and actual absorptions, which are released paths. See Ocean of Nectar.

Absorption of cessation

An uncontaminated wisdom focused single-pointedly on emptiness in dependence upon the actual absorption of peak of samsara. See Ocean of Nectar.

Absorption without discrimination

A concentration of the fourth form realm that observes nothingness and that is attained by stopping gross feelings and gross discriminations. See Ocean of Nectar.

Action close retreat

See Close retreat.

Action mudra

A Highest Yoga Tantra consort who assists in developing great bliss. See Clear Light of Bliss and Tantric Grounds and Paths.

Action Tantra

See Four classes of Tantra.