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Where did Aaron die, Moserah or Mount Hor?

Posted on Feb.11, 2009. Filed in Numbers, Deuteronomy. Average rating: 3.3 / 10 (Rate It).

Numbers and Deuteronomy chart the¬†wanderings of the Israelites following their flight from Egypt, and both record the death of the priest Aaron. However, each places Aaron’s death in a different location.

Deuteronomy gives Moserah as the place of Aaron’s death:

The Israelites journeyed from Beeroth-bene-jaakan to Moserah. There Aaron died, and there he was buried; his son Eleazar succeeded him as priest. From there they journeyed to Gudgodah, and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land with flowing streams. [Deuteronomy 10:6-7 (NRSV)]

However, Numbers has the Israelites continue their journey from Moseroth, and later says that Aaron died on Mount Hor:

They set out from Hashmonah and camped at Moseroth. They set out from Moseroth and camped at Bene-jaakan. They set out from Bene-jaakan and camped at Horhaggidgad. They set out from Horhaggidgad and camped at Jotbathah. They set out from Jotbathah and camped at Abronah. They set out from Abronah and camped at Ezion-geber. They set out from Ezion-geber and camped in the wilderness of Zin (that is, Kadesh). They set out from Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the edge of the land of Edom. Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor at the command of the Lord and died there in the fortieth year after the Israelites had come out of the land of Egypt, on the first day of the fifth month. [Numbers 33:30-38 (NRSV)]

This agrees with an earlier passage from Numbers:

They set out from Kadesh, and the Israelites, the whole congregation, came to Mount Hor. Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron at Mount Hor, on the border of the land of Edom, ‘Let Aaron be gathered to his people. For he shall not enter the land that I have given to the Israelites, because you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. Take Aaron and his son Eleazar, and bring them up Mount Hor; strip Aaron of his vestments, and put them on his son Eleazar. But Aaron shall be gathered to his people, and shall die there.’ Moses did as the Lord commanded; they went up Mount Hor in the sight of the whole congregation. Moses stripped Aaron of his vestments, and put them on his son Eleazar; and Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. [Numbers 20:22-28a (NRSV)]

So where did Aaron die, Moserah or Mount Hor?

N.B. All posts are written in a style sympathetic to the claim of Biblical error, even in cases where the author ("Errancy") disagrees with the claim. See the About page for the site's philosophy.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Amtiskaw

    Do we know enough about the geography to be certain these can’t both be true?

    One place could have two names, or the mountain could be located in a region called Moserah.

    Or some explanation along these lines?

  2. 2
    WisdomLover

    This is a non-starter. Moseroth and Mount Hor are less than a half a mile apart.

    Moseroth coordinates: 30.317396,35.407152
    Mount Hor coordinates: 30.31667, 35.4

    Use the ruler tool in Google Earth to see that they’re about .4 miles apart, and there’s a broad flat area between them. The Israelites might have camped in that area.

  3. 3
    Errancy

    As I understand it, there’s some uncertainty about the locations, so I’m surprised to see precise coordinates given, but my source on that is about 25 years old so could be out of date.

    I think that the case for this being a discrepancy rests on whether we see the journey in Deuteronomy from Beeroth-bene-jaakan to Moserah to Gudgodah to Jotbathah as the same as the journey in Numbers from Moseroth to Bene-jaakan to Horhaggidgad to Jotbathah.

    The direction of the first leg is reversed, and there are some differences in place names (Moserah/Moseroth and Gudgodah/Horhaggidgad), but these are sometimes seen as parallel accounts.

    If they are parallel accounts, then Deuteronomy kills off Aaron at the beginning of this journey while Numbers continues the journey and then kills him off later.

    If they aren’t parallel accounts, then saying that Mount Hor was at Moserah seems fine as a harmonisation absent any geographical data to the contrary.

  4. 4
    WisdomLover

    I got the coordinates for Moseroth from http://www.openbible.info/. That site gives the same coordinates for Moserah. I don’t know why I didn’t also get the coordinates for Mount Hor from that site as well. I was distracted mid-comment by something. In any case, I didn’t use the same source. Had I done so, I would have gotten the exact same coordinates as for Moseroth and Moserah.

    Perhaps there is some dispute about the location of Mount Hor. Could it be that the dispute is over a distance of .4 miles? If so, the alleged error is still a non-starter.

  5. 5
    Errancy

    Here’s what my New Bible Atlas says: “Near the end of this period Aaron died at Mt Hor (Nu.20:22-29; 33:37-39; cf. Dt.10:6 which names the place as Moserah, presumably a more precise locality within the mountainous region referred to as Mt Hor). The exact location of this is unknown, but it was evidently not far from Kadesh.” [New Bible Atlas, UCCF (1985), p32]

    The implication is that we don’t know where Moserah and Mount Hor are, but because Aaron is said to have died at both of them they must be in the same place.

    Given the reason for thinking that the Bible has Aaron die in two different places outlined in my previous comment (admittedly not a decisive reason, but a reason nevertheless), I’d prefer a counter-argument based on some extra-biblical evidence.

    That said, I agree that this isn’t the strongest claim of biblical error, and am starting to think that it should be recast as something like “Did Aaron die before or after the Israelites went to Jotbathah?” Perhaps I’ll post that as a closely related problem.

  6. 6
    Amtiskaw

    Hmm. If Moseroth and Moserah are the same place, then you have the problem that, in Numbers 33:30-31, we are told they left Moseroth/Moserah quite some time before the death of Aaron.

  7. 7
    WisdomLover

    But if Mount Hor is also the same place as Moserah and Moseroth (or they’re all within a half-hour’s walk of eachother), then the Hebrews are wandering in a circle. They leave Moseroth and arrive in Beeroth Bene Jaakan (per Deuteronomy 10) and, making a number of stops in between (per Numbers 33), they end up back at Moseroth/Mount Hor (also per Numbers 33). At this point, Aaron goes up to Mount Hor and dies.

    This account harmonizes the passages. It does require that we accept that the Hebrews are wandering aimlessly in the wilderness, sometimes going in circles, sometimes backtracking.

    To me, this is not much to accept. I’d expect that kind of journey given that they’re wandering around for 40 years to make a 1 month trip. Indeed, I’m not sure it would be possible to make sojourn they made in forty years without doing a lot of aimless walking in circles, backtracking etc.

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