#339. Where did Aaron die: Hor OR Moserah? (Num 33:38 vs Deut 10:6)
#340. When did Aaron die: in the 40th year of the wilderness period OR much earlier? (Num 33:38 vs Deut 10:6-7)


After the Israelites arrive at Kadesh for the first and only time according to the itinerary of Numbers 33 (but see contradictions #332-334), they quickly move to mount Hor at the edge of the land of Edom, where it is stated:

Aaron died there in the 40th year after the children of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the 5th month, on the 1st day of the month. (Num 33:38)

Similarly, Aaron’s death at Hor on the 40th year was narrated back at Numbers 20:23-29. Both of these passages come from the same textual tradition—the Priestly source—so there are no discrepancies between these two passages, albeit there are plenty of discrepancies when the Priestly text of Numbers 20:23-29 was redacted into its present narrative context. See Introduction to Numbers 21, plus these contradictions: #268, #270, #278, #279, #281, and #282-285.

Yet, the Deuteronomic tradition does contain a number of discrepancies and contradictions when comparing its narration of Aaron’s death to that of the Priestly source. To set the context: in Deuteronomy Moses is apparently, and shockingly, exactly 6 months from the date of Aaron’s death as reported by Numbers 33:38-39! That is, he is presently on the plains of Moab “in the 40th year in the 11th month on the 1st day of the month” (Deut 1:3). Thus, only 6 months after his brother’s death this is how Moses—shockingly and erroneously—renarrates the event!

And the children of Israel had traveled from Beeroth-Bene-Jaakan to Moserah. There Aaron died, and he was buried there; and Eleazar, his son, functioned as priest in his place. From there they traveled to Gudgod, and from Gudgod to Jotbah, a land of wadis of water. At that time Yahweh distinguished the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of Yahweh’s covenant, to stand in front of Yahweh, to serve him, and to bless his name to this day. Therefore Levi has not had a portion and a legacy with its brothers. Yahweh—He is its legacy, as Yahweh your god spoke to it. (Deut 10:6-9)

There are a number of discrepancies here some of which have already been treated. But with respect to our present contradictions, we should note that not only are the places where Aaron allegedly died contradictory, but so too the itinerary surrounding where he died, when he died, and the reasons for and outcome of his death. Either Moses has completely lost it or is consciously falsifying the historical record!. Or, we have two very different and contradictory textual traditions here that were only assembled together at a later date.

Taking these discrepancies as they appear:

  1. Contradictory to what is stated above in Deuteronomy 10, according to Numbers 33:30-31, the Israelites do not travel from Beeroth-Bene-Jaakan to Moserah (see #336-337).
  2. Contrary to what is stated here, Aaron did not die at Moserah according to Numbers 33:38-39.
  3. And furthermore Aaron did not die on and at the time of the itinerary route suggested here in Deuteronomy 10, which would place his death long before the 40th year as recorded in the itinerary of Numbers 33.
  4. Nor was Aaron buried at Moserah! The implication in both Numbers 20:27-28 and 33:38 is that Aaron died atop of mount Hor—a completely different geographical location and time period.
  5. Again, the Israelites did not then travel from Moserah to Gudgod (see #336-337).
  6. Contrary to Deuteronomy’s itinerary, after Aaron’s death in the 5th month of the 40th year the Israelite travel directly from mount Hor to Zalmonah in Edom, again according to Numbers 33.
  7. Radically contradictory to Deuteronomy 10, Yahweh did not “at that time distinguished the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of Yahweh’s covenant.” Again, according to the Priestly traditions of Numbers this was done on the 1st day of the 2nd month of the 2nd year from the Exodus (Num 1-3)—unless Deut 10 is suggesting that Aaron died at this time. And although the Levites were to carry the ark, they in no way were permitted to touch it on penalty of death! See #220.
  8. In more blatantly contradictory terms, neither did Yahweh at any time select the Levites to stand in front of him and serve him. In fact just the opposite had been commanded “by Yahweh” for the past 38 years! See, for example, #152, #177, #254, #256, #299.

If we were reading Deuteronomy 10 at face value, we would be utterly shocked by Moses’ blatant lies and falsification of “the facts” since the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers speak against every single claim he utters in his renarration here. Add to this the fact that this renarration of Aaron’s death comes only 6 months after Aaron’s actual death, again as represented in Numbers 20 & 33, and the claims Moses here makes about the Levites are and have been negated by Yahweh himself for the past 38 years!

Again, for “readers” unfamiliar with the Torah literature, this is not a portrait of a Moses who is lying or falsifying “the facts,” but rather a textual indication—one of hundreds—that Deuteronomy 10 and Numbers 33 each represent different traditions about Aaron’s death. And on top of that, each one has an ideological agenda in their specifically shaped story of Aaron’s death. This is more pronounced in Deuteronomy 10 where Aaron’s death signals, again according to this tradition alone, the rise of the Levites as Yahweh’s priests—which also negates and contradicts the prior 38 years as narrated by the Priestly tradition throughout Exodus and Numbers, as well as the Yahweh of this textual tradition. For more detail see contradiction #299. Does Yahweh make an eternal covenant with the Aaronid priesthood via Phinehas OR with the Levitical priesthood in general OR with only the Zadokite line OR with the Davidic line OR with Jesus Christ via Melchizedek?

What Deuteronomy 10 and Numbers 20 & 33 represent, therefore, are competing textual traditions written by rival priestly guilds. Deuteronomy 10 was written by Levites and in the very text that they wrote Yahweh selects the Levites to stand in front of him and minister as priests. But in the Aaronid traditions of Numbers, written by Aaronid priests, Yahweh is portrayed as selecting and anointing only Aaron and his seed as Yahweh’s priests in a binding eternal covenant! Readers that fail to acknowledge these authors’ unique and contradictory messages and agendas in reality merely neglect the biblical text, denying these authors their unique and competing messages, and instead impose their own exterior and subjective message and meaning onto these texts. Here. we are listening to the texts themselves, on their terms, not to later theological frameworks that attempt to harmonize these authors’ once independent and contradictory claims and messages.

4 thoughts on “#339. Where did Aaron die: Hor OR Moserah? (Num 33:38 vs Deut 10:6)
#340. When did Aaron die: in the 40th year of the wilderness period OR much earlier? (Num 33:38 vs Deut 10:6-7)

  1. Steven , I’m sorry my post made you upset , but I still stand behind my point , specially when you said you wanted to be “true to the text , its authors and the message”. If you have stated “true to the religious doctrines” instead , these contradictions would make perfect sense .
    Hebrew scribes , who initially wrote the text , were highly sophisticated writers . They not only arranged these books together using literary sources from different cultures and languages but also created the new alphabet and new language to write the stories down so it is unlikely for them to convey their messages with such absurd discrepancies .

    The MT and its English interpretations were designed to fit religious ideologies and did not care much about the honest and proper grammatical translation and meaning of originals . It’s easy to see this when you compare fragments of DSS to the earliest copies of biblical codexes and whatever was replicated from them . What you will notice first is that words on DSS appear longer ( f.e Moses-
    or Jacob עקוב have VAVs in them ) because they contain extra vowel consonants letters that were later removed and substituted with niqqud system to create new words and changed tenses . And as we know the position of these letters within the words can give the syntax the whole different meaning .
    It’s not a secret for Jewish readers that different orthographic techniques were used to do just that ( qere-kethib ) . It’s not a secret that the first five books were translated from Assyrian / Chaldean legends ( according to Philo ” On Life Of Moses “i & ii +Talmud/tract. Megillah ) and that etymology of Hebrew words is mostly derived from Assyrian dictionary .
    Jewish reader needs the so called “tikkun book” to be able to read religious interpretation of Torah text while the non-Hebrew speaking person is sadly left and unaware of its the faulty translation .
    If the original story goes f.e. : ” he was named DRAWN ( mvShh – westernized moses ) because the girl said ‘ I DRAWN HIM ‘ ( mShiti_hv ) out of the water ” , or “they called somebody HEEL CATCHER because he tried to CATCH the HEEL = IQB of his twin brother while he was being born ” and he was re-named PREVEALING – STRENGHT ( ISHral ) after he PREVEAILED ( ki SHrit ) FORCES ( alhim ) and MORTALS ( anshim ) why not to leave it this way , instead of hinting ” personal names ” , which makes no sense in the context .
    There is a reason why the word “aaron “/ ANOTHER is not a name or “ihvh alhim “/ EXISTING FORCES means plural and multiple ( not one god ! ) or ASCENDING FATHER ( Abram ) became FATHER OF MULTITUDE ( Abraham ) , because he was supposed to get multiplied – it’s all beautifully explained in the narrative of the original text .

    It’s evident that these days people are more interested to learn about accuracy of translation rather than its speculative interpretation , but in any case your site still encourages to learn and to explore ancient literature and Hebrew language and this is a good thing .

  2. Hi Steven ,
    I’ve been enjoying your Contradictions site having great appreciation for your hard work in explaining them to people who are interested in biblical literature .
    However these “contradictions” are the result of a deliberate mistranslation of the original Hebrew text . With regards to “contradiction” #339 ; there is no “Aaron” as a person with such name , “Hor” or “Moserah” ( in Deu 10:6 ) but ‘another’= AHRN in Hebrew , ‘ mountain’= HR and corrections =MVSRH .
    Here is a sample of morphological translation of Num 33:38 :
    ויעל v_iol and_he-ascents
    אהרן ahrn another * ( westernized AARON )
    הכהן h_khn the_priest
    אל al to
    הר hr mountain HOR – translated
    ההר h_hr the_mountain * HOR – untranslated
    על ol over
    פי pi intent / speech / terms [of ]
    יהוה ihvh existing * YHVH
    וימת v_imt and_he-is-dying
    שם Shm there
    בשנת b_Shnt in_year
    הארבעים h_arboim the_forty
    לצאת l_Tzat to_going-forth
    בני bn_i created_me
    מארץ m_arTz from_earth/ land
    מצרים mTzrim suffering ( how this became Egypt ?? )
    בחדש b_ChdSh in_month
    החמישי h_ChmiShi the_fifth
    באחד b_aChd in_one
    לחדש l_ChdSh to_month
    AND Deu 10 : 6
    ( I have found two versions of this passage in Hebrew ; the ST is from Samaritan Torah and the MT from MT is from Masoretic text from which English versions were created ) :

    ובני v_bni and_sons
    ישראל iShral prevailing-strength* ( westernized ISRAEL )
    נסעו nsov they-journeyed
    ממסרות m_msrvt from_corrections * ( westernized MOSERAH in ST ) OR (מבארת m_bart from_wells * MT )
    ויחנו v_iChnv and_they-are-encamping
    (בבני b_bni in_sons ST ) OR בני bn_i created_me
    יעקן ioqn twisted * ( westernized JAAKAN )

    מוסרה mvsrh correction * MOSERAH
    שם Shm there
    מת mt died
    אהרן ahrn another * AARON
    ויקבר v_iqbr and_he-is-buried
    שם Shm there
    ויכהן v_ikhn and_he-is-priest
    אלעזר alozr strength-of-help * ( westernized ELEAZAR )
    בנו bn_v created_him
    תחתיו tChti_v instead_him

    The words marked with * are purposely left untranslated to mislead non-Hebrew reader as if these are geographical names or names of real people , while , in fact , these are symbolic descriptions coming across from the context of the story . Also the Hebrew text is tailored depending on the doctrine ( ST or MT ) and huge parts are made up or taken out .
    If the biblical text was properly reconstructed and correctly translated there wouldn’t be any contradictions .

    1. Ania,

      To be frank, I’m deeply disturbed by what you’ve written. In presenting an argument that appears to pay greater attention to the text, in reality this type of “apologetic” textual gymnastics is anything but paying attention to the text, and more so to the text’s immediate context, and to the larger textual tradition to which this passage belongs and its message, ideology, worldview, etc. If the goal of any type of exegesis is to make more visible the message, views, beliefs, and even ideologies of the author of a text, then I’d have to say the above sorely fails. Do you honestly think that this is what our author intended? Can you say that you know this author, his beliefs, agenda, and the rest of the text he wrote well enough to even answer that question? Let’s look at this with an eye on the text and its author, and his message and intention.

      1. Aaron (אהרן) is mentioned over 260 times as a personal, proper name in this body of literature to which Numbers 33 belongs, the Priestly source. Aaron is the most important and dominant character in P. He even takes over the importance and prestige of Moses in several of P’s retellings of the earlier traditions that he himself inherited, which I have already discussed in numerous earlier entries here. Furthermore, the expression “Aaron the priest” (אהרן הכהן) is also found on numerous occasions throughout P. Moreover, both the Hebrew text and its immediate context demand that we read אהרן as the proper name Aaron. Even the syntax of the sentence, which follows typical biblical syntax, dictates this: ויעל אהרן הכהן. Biblical Hebrew sentences almost invariably start with consecutive waw + verb + subject, and our subject here is “Aaron the priest” — dictated again by the syntax and the immediate context, and the larger textual tradition to which this passage belongs. Lastly, an understanding of “another” which is an adjective isn’t even permissible on grounds of the Hebrew, the syntax, and the fact that the Hebrew doesn’t spell “another” here (אחר)—not a hey, but a chet—2 letters off from being אהרן.

      2. Contextually, the author of Numbers 33:38 is making the same claims as he did earlier in his narrative, Num 20:23-29, where:

      Yahweh said to Moses and to Aaron (אל־משה ואל־אהרן) at mount Hor . . . “let Aaron (אהרן) be gathered to his people . . . Take Aaron (אהרן) and Eleazar his son (בנו) and bring them up to the mountain . . . and take off Aaron’s clothes . . .” And Aaron (אהרן) died there on top of the mountain . . . and Israel mourned Aaron (אהרן) thirty days.

      If you read my post you would have seen that, against your claim, the text, Hebrew, and context of the story all dictate that אהרן be translated and understood as Aaron, here and in Num 33. Moreover, this textual tradition’s ideology, cultic worldview, attachment to the Aaronid priestly guild of the post-exilic period, etc. all dictate this understanding. It is part of acknowledging the Hebrew text, its immediate context, its larger Sitz em Leben, and most importantly its author’s message, agenda, beliefs, and even identity!

      3. This is not some conspiracy, some Western corruption of the text as you deem. It’s rather, and quite frankly the only point, of translating, understanding, and acknowledging the text in its own context—historically, culturally, and finally linguistically. I don’t have the time to go through and point out your same errors with respect to the translations of Hor, Eleazar, Egypt, Moserah, etc. True, Hebrew place names and personal names often express an etymological meaning. But again, the Hebrew, the immediate context of the story, and the larger ideology, message, and theology of this author all dictate that אחר be understood as Aaron. Frankly, this is not up to dispute. And that’s just acknowledging the text, its author, and his message.

      4. Lastly, and most importantly, the contradictions listed here are not contradictions in word. The words—Hor vs Moserah, in the 40th year or earlier, etc. are merely the external markers of huge theological and ideological disagreements between these two textual traditions. This is even brought out in the excerpt from Deut 10. The only reason why this author felt obliged to insert the tradition of verses 6-9 here in Moses’ renarration of the Golden Calf incident was the trigger word, “Yahweh’s ark” (v. 5). Here the Deuteronomist felt compelled to insert the tradition of Aaron’s death in the narrative because Aaron’s death early in the wilderness annulled, according to this author, his rival’s claim to the priesthood—the Aaronids. Here in verses 6-9 our author is asserting contradictory to the whole Priestly tradition from Exodus 40 to Numbers 36 that it was not the Aaronids who ministered and stood before Yahweh, but the Levites! Again this is a contradiction in whole theologies and ideologies (see particularly the Aaronid-written narratives of Num 16-17 and Num 25:13-19). It is representative of a priestly rivalry, as I’ve written about extensively, and even referred in the post above to earlier entries that discuss these authors’ differences.

      Finally, exegesis is not a narrow-minded fanciful game of linguistic sophistry. It’s being able to acknowledge much larger and whole competing and contradictory priestly theologies, ideologies, cultic worldviews, in the texts they wrote.

  3. Verses 6-7 look like a later insertion to me. For one thing they are narrated in the third person when the rest of the speech is narrated in first person. For another, if you remove them then the appointment of the Levites as priests is associated with the giving of the stone tablets after the golden calf incident, as it is in Exodus. As it stands it looks like the appointment of the Levites is associated with the death of Aaron.

    What would make this interesting is that those verses are, to the best of my knowledge, the only verses in Deuteronomy that associated Aaron with the priesthood.

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