The Lines Of Eleazar and Ithamar
by Wayne Blank
After the death of Aaron (for the reason that The Lord did not permit Aaron or Moses to enter the Promised Land, see the verses below and Heartbreak Mountain; for the reason that the Israelites spent 40 years on a journey that could have been completed in 40 days, see A Journey Without A Destination), Moses appointed Eleazar as the new High Priest:
"And The Lord said to Moses and Aaron at Mount Hor, on the border of the land of Edom, "Aaron shall be gathered to his people; for he shall not enter the land which 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 upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron shall be gathered to his people, and shall die there." Moses did as The Lord commanded; and they went up Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain." (Numbers 20:23-28 RSV)
Eleazar served as a close assistant to Moses, and then to Joshua:
"The Lord said to Moses and to Eleazar the son of Aaron, the priest, "Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, from twenty years old and upward, by their fathers' houses [see Children of Jacob], all in Israel who are able to go forth to war." And Moses and Eleazar the priest spoke with them in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho" (Numbers 26:1-3 RSV)
Eleazar was Israel's High Priest for the rest of his life, until he died and was buried in the land of Israel. The High Priesthood continued in Eleazar's line until Eli, who was descended from Ithamar, but was restored to Eleazar in later years, as recorded below.
After the death of Aaron, Ithamar served as a priest under his brother Eleazar:
"Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of Aaron their father" (Numbers 3:4 RSV)
The line of Ithamar continued serving as priests until the High Priesthood was assumed by Eli (i.e. Eli had charge of the Tabernacle), who was a descendant of Ithamar. The Lord later removed the High Priesthood from Eli's family line because of Eli's corrupt sons, Hophni and Phinehas, and Eli's weakness in not removing them himself from the priesthood, however it was not fully competed until years later when King Solomon removed disloyal Abiathar and appointed Zadok, of the line of Eleazar, in his place.
"Therefore The Lord the God of Israel declares: 'I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before Me for ever'; but now The Lord declares: 'Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed ... And I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind; and I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before My anointed for ever." (1 Samuel 2:30,35 RSV) (for Who was being ultimately referred to in the last verse, see the Fact Finder below)