#160. Does Aaron bring the great sin upon the people OR does he bear the people’s sin and atone for it? (Ex 32:21 vs Ex 28:38-41; Lev 4-5, 16:16, etc.)
#161. Does Yahweh vow to erase Aaron for his sin OR make him his exclusive anointed high priest? (Ex 32:33 vs Ex 28:38-41, 29:6-29, 40:12-16)


The narrative tensions and deep-rooted theological contradictions created when the JE material of Exodus 32-34 is inserted between the Priestly literature of Exodus 25-31 and 35-40 is nowhere more apparent than in its portrait of Aaron. On the one hand, he is the cause of the people’s sin, having fabricated the Golden Calf (#157); and on the other hand, he is the exclusive anointed of Yahweh, consecrated and without sin, the sole high priest whose function it was to atone the people’s sin.

I have already outlined much of this in previous entries (e.g., #105, #137-138, #148-149, #152, #153-154, #155, #157) so I’m going to limit my comments here.

In brief, this is just another example of how the Priestly writer’s whole theological and ideological belief system and cultic institutions were subverted and belittled by the redactional processes of later generations of readers who stitched together competing texts, each with their competing views and theologies. In the redacted PJE text as it now stands, new textual and theological anomalies were created:

  1. While Aaron is below fabricating Israel’s “great sin,” he is nevertheless being proclaimed as Yahweh’s sole anointed priest above, the only individual who can atone sin!
  2. While the Yahweh of the Elohist source declares that Aaron is to pay for his sin by being “wiped out of Yahweh’s scroll (Ex 32:33), the Yahweh of the Priestly literature proclaims Aaron as Yahweh’s sole anointed and centrally most important figure in Israel’s history, writing his name in the Priestly scroll 261 times!
  3. While the Aaron of the Elohist story leads Israel in its greatest example of forbidden idol worship, up above on the mountain, the Aaron of the Priestly literature is being chosen by Yahweh to lead Israel in the worship of Yahweh through the cultic institution spearheaded by Aaron alone.

This is nothing short of an example of the perverseness and utter theological contradictions that resulted from the stitching together of diverse texts and traditions. Furthermore, what could be more perverse and subversive than when later generations of readers read these diverse texts, each with their unique claims, through an imposed interpretive framework which goes by the name “the Book”? Reading these texts as the title “the Bible” prescribes, is in effect, neglecting, disdaining, and nothing short of erasing the very voices of these once independent texts, each with their unique theological and ideological beliefs and worldviews. It puts the reader’s concerns and beliefs before those of the authors of these texts.

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