These verses say:

"In the tabernacle of meeting, outside the veil which is before the Testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening until morning before the Lord. It shall be a statute forever to their generations on behalf of the children of Israel." - Exodus 27:21 [NKJV]

"Outside the veil of the Testimony, in the tabernacle of meeting, Aaron shall be in charge of it from evening until morning before the Lord continually; it shall be a statute forever in your generations." - Leviticus 24:3 [NKJV]

These seem confusing. Is it Aaron and his sons or just Aaron in charge of keeping the lamps burning?

To make this even more interesting, both verses also use the same Hebrew verb (arak, meaning "to set/lay in order"). In Exodus 27:21 it's translated to "tend". In Leviticus 24:3 it's translated to "shall be in charge of".

How do you reconcile these verses?

  • What is Aaron in 'charge' of? His sons perhaps?
    – Steve
    Oct 25, 2021 at 6:15
  • There doesn't seem to be anything to reconcile.
    – Lucian
    Oct 25, 2021 at 6:58

2 Answers 2


Often in the OT a person’s name is used to refer to his progeny in general. Israel was the name God gave to Jacob and yet it came to refer to all his descendants. Here is another example from Hosea.

11:12 Ephraim surrounds Me with lies And the house of Israel with deceit; Judah is also unruly against God, Even against the Holy One who is faithful. (NASB)

The prophet is clearly referring to the descendants of Ephraim, Israel, and Judah. Lev. 24:3 therefore refers to Aaron and his house through the ages.

Yes, the same root word “arak” is used in both passages but the difference in the meanings can be explained by the process of semantic broadening, by which “set in order” becomes generalized to “take care of”.

  • Your answer really sounds interesting. Would you happen to have any other related sources you could site for your point "Often in the OT a person’s name is used to refer to his progeny in general"?
    – Philip
    Oct 26, 2021 at 1:13
  • Hi Philip, the source I use more than any other is the Bible. You can leaf through and get many examples like I did in Hosea. Have fun with that! By the way, don't forget to vote up all the interesting answers your find. :) Oct 26, 2021 at 2:07
  • @Phillip I think Martin answered this well - there are so many example of the person name being used to refer to their descendents. Even the name Israel - which was a name given to Jakob by God became a name to refer to all his descendents. Then the names of the 12 tribes (up to 14 depending on how you count) - were taken from the names of Jakobs 12 sons (+ 2 of Josephs sons which are also given tribal status). The "Levitical Priesthood" is literally named after Levi - one of Joakobs sons. Aaron - is a descendant of Levi. His great grandson. So levitical priesthood is also itself an example
    – Marshall
    Oct 26, 2021 at 12:46

Key to understanding Exodus 27:21 and Leviticus 24:3 is the term עֹולָם. How is Aaron going to do this forever?; Or, even Aaron's sons? For they will die in the desert.

As I live, declares the LORD, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29 your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, 30 not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. 32 But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. (Num. 14:28–33, ESV)

The intent of the Law is for Aaron's descendants to continue this ritual. Note the meaning of בֵּן (son) in Figure 2. Thus, Aaron in Lev. 24:3 also includes Aaron's descendants.

Figure 1. The senses of the word עֹולָם in the Mt (generated with Logos Bible Software).

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Figure 2. The senses of בֵּן in the MT.

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