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:
- 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).
- Contrary to what is stated here, Aaron did not die at Moserah according to Numbers 33:38-39.
- 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.
- 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.
- Again, the Israelites did not then travel from Moserah to Gudgod (see #336-337).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.