The Image of the Prophet Aaron in Russian Icons
Along with the Prophet Moses, his elder brother Aaron, who is also a prominent figure in the Christian world, frequently appears in religious texts. By the grace of God, the Prophet Aaron became the first High Priest of the Israelites, representing the priestly functions of his people. The traditional image of Aaron in Russian icons appeared in the 10th century, often depicting him as a High Priest but in different variations. So, who exactly was the Prophet Aaron, and in what way is he depicted in Russian icons?
Aaron, the spokesman to the people
As mentioned above, Aaron was the older brother of Moses and a prophet of God. Since his brother was chosen to speak on behalf of God, Aaron became a leader among people in his own right. Later, after Moses expressed his concern about being not a good speaker to gain people’s trust in God, Aaron was appointed to assist the Prophet Moses and be a spokesman to the people. God confirmed this appointment when Aaron’s rod miraculously blossomed. Along with Moses, Aaron helped Hebrews destroy slavery and lead many people through years of desert wandering. The Prophet Aaron became the first High Priest, preserving this title for all his descendants until the coming of Christ the Savior, and passing it on to the eldest of the clan.
According to Christian tradition, Aaron’s death was decreed by God for committing a sin. He was buried on Mount Hor.
Aaron in Russian icons
Unlike Jewish art, where the Prophet Aaron is depicted together with Moses or with his flowering rod, Russian icons show him as a prophet holding a scroll. He is depicted with white hair and a long beard, wearing priestly vestment, a turban or miter, and a jeweled breastplate. Sometimes, Aaron in Russian icons is shown with a blue vessel painted with the face of the Theotokos. This vessel keeps the holy manna that God provided in the desert. The image of the Virgin on the vessel is a symbol of the holder of Christ who came to this world as the salvation of humanity.
Thus, the image of the Prophet Aaron in Russian icons is a sign of God’s word and will delivered by Aaron to hundreds of people. These icons are placed in many churches and temples around the world to inspire believers and strengthen their faith.