Elisheba

Elisheba (also Elisheva) means “God is my oath” or “God's oath.” She became the sister-in-law of Moses when she married his brother, Aaron, member and high priest of the Levite tribe. Her brother, Naashon, served in the army of Judah. Naashon was referred to as “prince of the children of Judah” in 1 Chronicles 2:10. The Bible notes little else about Elisheba and her family, but does say that she gave birth to four sons who became the patriarchs of the Levitical priesthood, a priesthood that God had instituted. You may recall that God told Aaron that he and his sons would be priests: Elisheba is mentioned briefly in the book of Exodus as the mother of those would-be priests.

And Aaron took him Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab, sister of Naashon, to wife; and she bare him Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar (Exodus 6:23). And Eleazar Aaron's son took him one of the daughters of Putiel to wife; and she bare him Phinehas: these are the heads of the fathers of the Levites according to their families (6:25).

Elisheba's father, Amminadab, belonged to the tribe of Judah. Elisheba's marriage to Aaron fused the royal line of Judah with the priestly Levites. Her husband Aaron (of the Levite tribe) was born when the people of Israel were in exile in Egypt, some eighty-three years before God's “Chosen Ones” would reach the Promised Land. Elisheba most likely would have been with Aaron as he traveled with his brother Moses and sister Miriam toward the Promised Land.

What did Elisheba think about her husband yielding to the demands of the people and making the golden calf for them to worship while Moses was high up on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments from God? It was a low point in Aaron's life, a life that had many highs and lows. Did she think he was just placating the desire of the people and buying time until Moses could return? Did Elisheba fear God might strike her husband down for making an idol? Did she simply acquiesce and remain silent? The Bible doesn't say.

When the Hebrew people believed that Moses would not return (after he'd gone to the mountain where God gave him the Ten Commandments), they went to Aaron, their priest, and demanded to worship an idol. Aaron appeased them using gold rings from the ears of the Hebrew wives, sons, and daughters to make a molten golden calf.

The incident with the golden calf was only one of what must have been many challenging moments in Elisheba's life. Lack of further mention of her in the Bible suggests that she did not attract attention to herself or incur the wrath of God. She may have quietly served the Lord without offending him or others. Perhaps she was alive to see her sons, Nadab and Abihu, die in a fire after having offered incense to the Lord that was not in compliance with the law he had given (Leviticus 10:1–20, Exodus 30:9). She may have witnessed her husband's transference of his priestly power and authority (when he was 123 years old) to his third son, Eleazar, presenting him with the sacred garments to be worn by the high priest. Maybe Elisheba even witnessed the death of her husband at Mount Hor, and participated in the people's mourning of him for thirty days.

She may have lived long enough to enter the Promised Land with her son, Eleazar, but Aaron, Moses, and Miriam died before they could complete that journey — a punishment by God for their sins. Moses' shortcoming was lack of faith and anger. God had told him to get water from a rock by speaking to it. Instead, Moses hit the rock with a rod (Deuteronomy 32:48–52, Numbers 20:7–13). Aaron and Miriam, similarly, were punished for their defiance against God and lapses in faith. The Bible does not reveal how or when Elishaba died. The most important detail of her life was that she had found favor in the sight of the Lord, such that he blessed her with sons to carry on the work of the priesthood.

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