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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.

Affirming negative

See Negative phenomenon.

Aggregate

In general, all functioning things are aggregates because they are an aggregation of their parts. In particular, a person of the desire realm or form realm has five aggregates: the aggregates of form, feeling, discrimination, compositional factors, and consciousness. A being of the formless realm lacks the aggregate of form but has the other four. A person’s form aggregate is his or her body. The remaining four aggregates are aspects of his mind. See also Individual aggregates and Contaminated aggregate. See Heart of Wisdom.

Aggression

A deluded mental factor that is an increase of the root delusion anger that wishes to hurt or harm others physically or verbally. See Understanding the Mind.

AHAB AND JEZEBEL

King and Queen of the northern kingdom of Israel from about 874–853 BC. Because of their immoral character and worship of Baal, their reign is remembered as one of the lowest spiritual points in the northern kingdom. First Kings 16:30 says that Ahab did more evil in the Lord’s sight than any of the kings before him. AHAB’S BACKGROUND Ahab was the eighth king of the northern kingdom. His father, Omri, founded a dynasty or ruling family that lasted forty years. This family ruled during the reigns of Ahab and his two sons, Ahaziah and Jehoram. According to 1 Kings, Omri was a general in the army of King Elah, son of Baasha. When Elah was assassinated, Omri was welcomed as king by his own forces in the field (1 Kings 16:8-16). He won in the resulting civil war and occupied Tirzah, the capital city (16:17-23). Soon he moved his capital to Samaria and built defenses in the region (16:24). Omri also made an alliance with the Phoenicians, as David and Solomon had done. But he was condemned for it by later generations. Ahab succeeded his father (16:28). He pursued this alliance by marrying the Phoenician king’s daughter, Jezebel (16:29-31). JEZEBEL’S INFLUENCE Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon in Phonecia(1 Kings 16:10-33), was an immoral and fanatical pagan. The marriage was probably a continuation of the friendly relations between Israel and Phoenicia begun by Omri; it confirmed a political alliance between the two nations. Jezebel exerted a strong influence over the life of Israel, as she insisted on establishing the worship of Baal and demanded the absolute rights of the monarchy. So strong was her pagan influence, that Scripture attributes the apostasy of Ahab directly to Jezebel. Under Jezebel’s influence Ahab gave up the worship of God for the worship of Baal. Ahab’s new religion was a fertility cult that featured sexual unions between priests and temple “virgins.” This practice was contrary to the laws of God as was Ahab’s marriage to a pagan (Deuteronomy 7:1-5). Jezebel's efforts to establish Baal worship in Israel began with Ahab's acceptance of Baal following the marriage (1 Kings 16:31). Ahab followed Jezebel's practices by building a house of worship and an altar for Baal in Samaria, and by setting up a pole for worship of the Asherah. A campaign was then conducted to exterminate the prophets of God (18:4), while Jezebel organized and supported large groups of Baal’s prophets, housing and feeding large numbers of them in the royal palace (18:19). The corrupt influence of Jezebel spread to the southern kingdom of Judah through her daughter Athaliah, who married Jehoram, king of Judah. This marriage was also a disaster (2 Kings 8:17-18, 26-27; 11:1-20), and the idolatry of Phoenicia infected both kingdoms of the Hebrews through this evil princess. THEIR INTERACTION WITH ELIJAH Ahab built many cities (1 Kings 22:39) and fought a number of wars. But for the most part his rule centers on the great prophet, Elijah (17:1; 18:1; 19:1). Early in Ahab’s reign, God sent Elijah to predict years of drought and famine as punishment for the king’s sin (1 Kings 17:1; 18:16-18). The drought lasted three and a half years. It was such a remarkable period in Israel’s history that it was remembered into New Testament times (Luke 4:25; James 5:17). Both people and animals suffered greatly (1 Kings 18:5). At the end of the three and a half years Elijah challenged Ahab to gather all the pagan prophets for a final showdown between God and Baal. They would compete over a sacrifice. Elijah mocked the 450 prophets of Baal for not being able to attract the attention of their false god to light their fire. Then he prayed to God, and fire fell from heaven on God’s altar. The people shouted their belief in God and helped Elijah execute the pagan prophets (1 Kings 18:16-40). The drought ended immediately (18:41-46). When she heard what had happened to her prophets, Jezebel swore revenge. Elijah fled, and on Mount Horeb, God told him to anoint Jehu to become king of Israel in place of Ahab (1 Kings 19:1-16). This act was carried out by the prophet’s successor, Elisha (19:19-21; 2 Kings 9:1-10). Jezebel's dishonest and scheming nature is revealed in the account of Ahab's desire for Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:1-16). Although Ahab desired the vineyard, he recognized Naboth's right to retain the family property. Jezebel recognized no such right in view of a monarch's wishes. She arranged to have Naboth falsely accused of blaspheming God and then executed, leaving the vineyard for Ahab to seize. For this horrible crime, Elijah condemned Ahab, saying that as a judgment God would bring a bloody end to his family (1 Kings 21:17-24). Ahab repented, and God postponed the judgment until after Ahab’s death (21:27-29; 2 Kings 10:1-14). THEIR REIGN AND DEMISE During his reign Ahab had military encounters with King Ben-hadad II of Syria (Aram). The Syrians largely provoked this conflict. In the first encounter Ben-hadad attacked Samaria, Israel’s capital, and demanded silver and gold. Ahab refused the demands and called a council of elders. As the Syrians were preparing to attack, a prophet advised Ahab to attack first (1 Kings 20:1-14). The Syrians were routed and Ben-hadad barely escaped with his life (20:15-22). The following year Ben-hadad mounted another attack on Ahab’s forces. He was again defeated, and eventually surrendered to Ahab (20:23-33). Ben-hadad gave up some Israelite cities that had been overrun by his father. Israel was granted trading posts in Damascus (20:34). God used a prophet to scold Ahab for forming such an alliance with a pagan power (20:35-43). In Ahab’s last war with Syria, he allied with the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:2-4; 2 Chronicles 18:1-3). That alliance had been made stronger by the marriage of Ahab’s daughter Athaliah to Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat. Ahab proposed a campaign for the recovery of Ramoth-gilead in the northeast corner of Israel. When Jehoshaphat refused to believe the predictions of Ahab’s 400 prophets, a prophet of God named Micaiah...

Akanishta

A Pure Land where Bodhisattvas attain enlightenment. See Clear Light of Bliss.

Akshobya

The manifestation of the aggregate of consciousness of all Buddhas. He has a blue-coloured body.

Alertness

A mental factor which is a type of wisdom that examines our activity of body, speech, and mind and knows whether or not faults are developing. See Understanding the Mind.

All Good One

An English name for Samantabhadra, a Bodhisattva renowned for his extensive offerings. See Great Treasury of Merit.

ALLOTMENT OF THE LAND

The assignment of large territories of the Promised Land of Canaan to the 12 tribes of Israel following Israel’s conquest of the area was known as the allotment of the land. The specific territory in Canaan to be occupied by each of the 12 tribes of Israel was not left to their own initiative. They were not to possess whatever land they could win for themselves by military conquest. Rather, they were ordered to fight as one nation and then divide the total area by casting lots—a method similar to drawing straws or tossing a coin. The same method was used at other times in Bible history as a means of determining God’s will. Besides avoiding arguments or intertribal fighting, the procedure had theological significance. The outcome was placed solely in God’s hands (see Proverbs 16:33). This reminded the people that the land was his to apportion as he saw fit. In Numbers 26:52-56 the Lord’s order for such a lottery was given (see also Numbers 34). In Joshua chapters 13–19 the allotment was planned and carried out at Shiloh (Numbers 19:51). Assignment of the southern part of Transjordan to two and a half tribes had already been made by Moses (Numbers 32). West of the Jordan the remaining nine and a half tribes received portions by lot after their faithful leader, Caleb, got his choice of the region around Hebron. The order in which the tribes were named somewhat follows their relative locations. The territory of the major southern tribe, Judah, included Caleb’s lands and extended north to the yet unconquered Jerusalem. Next came the large central portions of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph’s sons. Benjamin’s area lay between Judah and Ephraim. Then Simeon’s territory was named, lying in southern Judah. The remaining tribes listed in Joshua 19, with one exception, received territorial inheritance north of Manasseh. They were Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan. Dan’s tribe drew an allotment west of Judah, but because the Philistines held the coastline, Dan’s tribe migrated north and renamed the captured city of Lachish for their tribal ancestor, Dan (see Judges 18). From then on, “from Dan to Beersheba” meant all of Israel. With respect to the customs of that time, this kind of allotment made theological sense. Kings and emperors in the ancient Near East were considered sovereign representatives of their gods. They held the ownership right to all lands and gave portions to whomever they pleased. From the time of the Exodus, Israel was a theocracy. God was king. No human authority was sovereign or possessed sovereign property rights. God was the Israelites’ sole benefactor.

ALTAR

An altar is the place where offerings are made to God. This could be a sacrifice of animals or a burning of incense (a pleasant odor) before God (Exodus 30:1-10). The sacrificing of animals to God was used as a covering for sin. The practice was known in the ancient Middle East. Israel’s neighbors, the Canaanites, had their own altars and ceremonies. The altar was always a raised-up place. The earliest chapters of the Bible refer to several altars that were built. Noah offered burnt offerings (Genesis 8:20). Abraham built an altar at Shechem (12:7), another at Bethel (12:8), and one on Mount Moriah (22:9). Isaac built an altar at Beersheba (26:25), and Jacob at Shechem (33:20) and Bethel (35:7). Moses built one at Rephidim (Exodus 17:15) and another at Horeb (24:4). In each case the altar was built to remember an event in which God had helped the offerer. Two altars were used in the tabernacle (the place Israel met with God). One, measuring 5 by 5 by 3 cubits (7.5 by 7.5 by 4.5 feet; 2.3 by 2.3 by 1.4 meters), was made of wood covered with bronze, and used for burnt offerings (Exodus 27:1-8; 38:1-7). The other, smaller one, the golden altar, was about 18 inches (45 centimeters) square and 3 feet (90 centimeters) high. It was used to burn incense before the veil (30:1-10; 40:5). In Exodus 20:24-26, Israel was instructed to make an altar of earth or of uncut stones. Burnt offerings and peace offerings were to be made in every place where God caused his name to dwell. Various individuals built an altar from time to time. Joshua built an altar on Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:30-31). The Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh built one in Transjordan (22:10-16). Gideon built one in Ophrah (Judges 6:24). The family of David did so in Bethlehem (1 Samuel 20:6, 29). David built one at the threshing floor of Araunah (2 Samuel 24:25). Elijah built an altar on Matthew Carmel (1 Kings 18:30). There were two altars in Solomon’s temple. One was 20 cubits square (about 25 feet; 7.6 meters) and 10 cubits high (about 12.5 feet; 3.8 meters). It was made of bronze and used for burnt offerings. It remained the center of temple worship until the temple was destroyed. The second, the incense altar, stood in front of the veil. It was made of cedar and covered with gold (1 Kings 6:20-22). When the temple lay in ruins, Ezekiel had a vision of the restored temple in Jerusalem. This was an elaborate altar of burnt offering, rising in three terraces to a height of 10 cubits (17.5 feet; 5.3 meters). It rested on a base about 20 cubits (35 feet; 10.6 meters) square. Zerubbabel built an altar of burnt offerings (Ezra 3:2), but later it was not treated as sacred. There was probably an image of Zeus, the ancient Greek god, at the altar. In Christian worship no altar was required. In the death of Jesus Christ the final sacrifice for sin had been made. The New Testament refers to the altar of burnt offering in the temple (Matthew 5:23-24; 23:18-20, 35; Luke 11:51; 1 Corinthians 9:13; 10:18; Hebrews 7:13; Revelation 11:1) It also talks about the altar of incense, both in the earthly temple (Luke 1:11) and in the heavenly temple (Revelation 6:9; 8:5; 9:13).