God Gave Aaron a Second Chance

God Gave Aaron a Second Chance

Aaron fell  

Aaron was approached by people, who asked him to "make us gods who shall go before us" (Exodus 32:1; ESV), while their leader, Moses, was gone for a meeting with God on Mt. Sinai, unexpectedly, for 40 long days. Aaron did not resist, instead, obliged them, almost immediately, with a well-publicized effort to make a golden calf for the nation to worship: 

So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. … (Exodus 32:2-6ESV). 

The consequence of Aaron’s fall  

While Moses was still conversing with God on the top of Mt. Sinai, God noticed Aaron’s golden calf at the bottom of the mountain and its worship by God’s people, whom He brought out of Egypt.  

And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you” (Exodus 32:9-10 ESV). 

God was ready to destroy the calf-worshipping nation of Israel, who were the descendants of Abraham on their way to the Promised Land. When God said, I will “make a great nation of you,” God offered to replace the nation of Israel with a nation of future descendants of Moses. 

Promptly, Moses ducked God’s offer to make his descendants a great nation at the expense of Abraham’s descendants. Instead, unselfishly, he pleaded with God for mercy and forgiveness for the calf-worshiping descendants of Abraham, whom he has been leading to the Promised Land. He succeeded in convincing God with his unselfish pleas on behalf of the people he was called to lead. 

What Moses thought of Aaron’s fall 

Moses was obviously distressed by his brother Aaron’s lapse that almost got the nation of Israel destroyed. Therefore, when Moses met Aaron after the debacle, Moses asked him “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” (Exodus 32:21).  

Moses’ question implies that his brother Aaron could be easily swayed or pushed around by others to commit a gravely sinful act and/or could be made to compromise the very things that should never be compromised. Additionally, Moses’ question implies that his brother succumbed to pressure, or he was attempting to please others, or he was unfit to lead, or some combination of the above. 

God gives Aaron a significant second chance 

Surprisingly, not very long after Aaron fell and Moses intervened to save the nation from destruction, God said this to Moses:   

“Bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance to the tent of meeting and wash them with water. Then dress Aaron in the sacred garments, anoint him and consecrate him so he may serve me as priest” (Exodus 40:12-13). 


Moses did everything just as the LORD commanded him” (Exodus 40:16). 

This direction to Moses to anoint Aaron as the nation’s foremost priest is evidence that Aaron had repented, God had forgiven him and was giving him a significant second chance. 

It would NOT surprise anyone if Moses thought Aaron was unfit to be the nation’s premier priest after he enabled the nation to worship a golden calf that brought the wrath of God upon the nation, and some died as a consequence (Exodus 32:35).  

Moses accepts Aaron’s priesthood after the fall 

Given Aaron’s fall and its consequence, it is notable that Moses did not express to God any objection to anointing Aaron as the nation’s priest, instead, promptly fulfilled God’s directions to anoint Aaron as the nation's priest (Exodus 40:16). Therefore, we can infer this from Moses: Moses, with a personal knowledge of Aaron’s repentance, forgave Aaron, and, when God instructed him, he was ready to give Aaron a second chance as the nation’s premier priest. 

Aaron made good use of his second chance, and, as we read in Exodus and Numbers, he never squandered it before his death (Numbers 20:25-29)—a well-deserved second chance.  

God gave Aaron a second chance, and Moses did too. As a leader, would you give a second chance to a repentant colleague/partner/staff? 

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Paul Swamidass

Paul Swamidass, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus, Harbert College of Business, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA. INTEREST: Leadership training for leaders of Christian organizations. He has published some articles on Christian leadership and contributed to some Christian-leadership training in India in partnership with The Kerusso Institute for Global Leaders

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