Who was Eleazar in the Bible?Eleazar was a priest and one the of the four sons of Aaron. He was high priest when the Israelites began entering the Promised Land. His role started out relatively small; he was consecrated as a priest along with the rest of his brothers, Nadab, Abihu, and Ithamar (Exodus 28:1). Eventually, he became chief over the chiefs of the Levites and oversaw the guards of the sanctuary (Numbers 3:32).
What distinguished Eleazar is that he remained faithful to the Lord when the people around him did not. When the sons of Korah rebelled against Moses' leadership, God had Eleazar help clean up the mess (Numbers 16:37–40). Even his older brothers, Nadab and Abihu, did not follow God's instructions and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord (Leviticus 10:1; Numbers 3:4). Nadab and Abihu were consumed by fire from the Lord. Moses instructed Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar not to wear the clothes of mourning for the deceased men, and they obeyed (Leviticus 10). Eleazar and his brother Ithamar remained faithful to the Lord and carried out the priestly duties with which they were tasked.
Because Eleazar remained faithful to the Lord, God gave him more responsibility. When Aaron was going to die, God said, "Let Aaron be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land that I have given to the people of Israel, because you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son and bring them up to Mount Hor. And strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son. And Aaron shall be gathered to his people and shall die there" (Numbers 20:24–26). Eleazar's faithfulness allowed the honor of leading his people into the Promised Land, something that even the most esteemed of Israel's leaders could not do. He helped Joshua break up the land among the Israelites (Numbers 34:17; Joshua 14:1; 19:51). He started small, but his faithfulness to the Lord led Eleazar to a prominent position in Israel.
Eleazar was the father of Phinehas, a priest known for his zeal for the Lord. Numbers 25 tells of the Israelites worshipping the false god Baal of Peor and committing sexual sin with the Moabites. God instructed Moses to kill the Israelites who had yoked themselves to the false god. When Phinehas saw an Israelite essentially in the act of blatant sin, he killed the man and the woman, and "the plague on the people of Israel was stopped" (Numbers 25:8). God told Moses, "Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. Therefore say, 'Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel'" (Numbers 25:11–13).
Joshua 24:33 records the death of Eleazar the priest: "And Eleazar the son of Aaron died, and they buried him at Gibeah, the town of Phinehas his son, which had been given him in the hill country of Ephraim."
There are a few more Eleazar's in the Bible who are of note, though none are as prominent as the high priest. One Eleazar was a member of David's mighty men, and was a great warrior: "He was with David when they defied the philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel withdrew. He rose and struck down the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clung to the sword. And the LORD brought about a great victory that day, and the men returned after him only to strip the slain" (2 Samuel 23:9–10). Another Eleazar was consecrated to have charge over the ark of the covenant after the Philistines returned it (1 Samuel 7:1). Many of the others were simply mentioned (1 Chronicles 23:21–22; Ezra 8:33; 10:25; Nehemiah 12:42; Matthew 1:15).
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