Elizabeth, daughter of Aminadab and sister of Nahason, bore to Aaron four sons, Nadab, Abiu, Eleazar, and Ithamar (Exodus 6:23), all of whom, with their father, "were anointed … and consecrated, to do the functions of priesthood" (Numbers 3:2-3; Leviticus 8:1-13). As Nadab and Abiu died without children, punished for offering strange fire before the Lord (Leviticus 10:107; 1 Chronicles 24:1-2), "Eleazar and Ithamar performed the priestly office in the presence of Aaron" (Numbers 3:4). Thus entitled to succeed his father in the office of high-priest, "Eleazar … took a wife of the daughters of Phutiel", and so became the father of Phinees (Exodus 6:25). Prince of the princes of the Levites "that watch for the guard of the sanctuary" (Numbers 3:4), directing the sons of Caath when wrapping up "the sanctuary and the vessels thereof at the removing of the camp" (Numbers 4:15-16), Eleazar was selected as the suitable official, "to whose charge pertaineth the oil to dress the lamps, and the sweet incense, and the sacrifice … and the oil of unction, and whatsoever pertaineth to the service of the tabernacle, and of all the vessels that are in the sanctuary" (Numbers 4:16). At the very moment when his brothers were punished "by fire coming out from the Lord", Eleazar, though deeply affected by mental anguish, obeyed the order of Moses, and completed their unfinished sacrifice (Leviticus 10:1-20). After the terrible punishment inflicted on the daring usurpers, Core, Dathan, and Abiron, as if to make more evident his right to become the high- priest, Eleazar, complying with orders, beat into plates the still smoking censers used by these unfortunate rebels, and for a sign and a memorial, fastened this metal to the altar (Numbers 16:1-40). Appointed to preside over the immolation of the red cow (Numbers 19:1-10), Eleazar next appears, clothed with the vesture of Aaron, and exercising the office of high priest (Numbers 20:22-29). Hence it is that we find Eleazar associated with Moses, in numbering the children of Israel after the slaughter of the twenty-four thousand (Numbers 26:1-4), in settling the inheritance case presented by the daughters of Salphaad (Numbers 27:1-3), in distributing the spoils taken from the Madianites (Numbers 31:1-54), and, finally, in considering the request of Ruben and Gad for land east of the Jordan (Numbers 32:1-5). To Eleazar, Josue, the successor of Moses, is presented by the Jewish lawgiver himself (Numbers 27:12-23). On the list of those appointed to divide among the Israelites the lands west of the Jordan, the very first name is that of Eleazar (Numbers 34:16-19; Joshua 14:1-2, 19:51), who was buried "in Gabaath, that belonged to Phinees his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim" (Joshua 24:33). If we except the period from Heli to Solomon, during which the descendants of Ithamar exercised the office of high-priest (1 Samuel 2:30-36; 1 Kings 2:27-27), those holding this most sacred calling, down to the time of the Machabees, belonged to the family of Eleazar (Exodus 6:25).
Eleazar was the fourth son of Mathathias (1 Maccabees 2:1-5). With some probability, he is identified with the Esdras who before the battle with Nicanor read the Holy Book to the Jewish warriors (2 Maccabees 8:22-24). In the engagement at Bethzacharam, he displayed marvellous courage in attacking and killing the elephant, on which "it seemed to him that the king [Antiochus Eupator] was". Crushed to death beneath the dying elephant, Eleazar "exposed himself to deliver his people and to get himself an everlasting name". (1 Maccabees 6:17-46)
Eleazar, though ninety years of age, bravely preferred to die a most glorious death than to purchase a hateful life by violating the law which forbade to the Israelite the use of swine's flesh. His friends, "moved with wicked pity", were willing to substitute lawful flesh, that Eleazar, feigning to have eaten the forbidden meat, might be delivered from death. But, considering "the dignity of his age … and the inbred honour of his grey head", Eleazar spurned this well-meant proposal, which if accepted, though securing his deliverance from punishment, might scandalize many young persons, and could not deliver from the hand of the Almighty. Having thus changed into rage the rejected sympathy of his friends, the holy man bravely endured his cruel torture, probably at Antioch, during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. (2 Maccabees 6:18-31; 1 Maccabees 1:57-63)
PALIS AND LEVESQUE in VIG., Dict. de la Bible (Paris, 1898); ALLEN in HAST., Dict. of the Bible (New York, 1898); GIGOT, Outlines of Jewish History (New York, 1905).
APA citation. (1909). Eleazar. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05373b.htm
MLA citation. "Eleazar." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05373b.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron. With thanks to St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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