Why God didn’t punish Aaron for making the golden calf (Exodus 32:4-6), but rather he rewards him with priesthood (number 17)?
Aaron was not a strong leader as Moses his brother was. He buckled under pressure. In the story of the golden calf he did not mean to lead the children of Israel into that terrible sin of idolatry. I am sure he was pressurized by the unconverted congregation. But that is no excuse.
The Lord wanted to destroy all the congregation including Aaron but Moses pleaded from them all and asked the Lord to punish him instead!
Ex 32:11 “And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?”
Ex 32:14 “And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.”
Moses reveals more of this inside story in Deuteronomy. We see God was upset with Aaron, and Moses especially pleads for his brother.
Deut 9:18-20 “And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the LORD was wroth against you to destroy you. But the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also. And the LORD was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him: and I prayed for Aaron also the same time.”
Moses pleaded for Aaron and for all the people. And God gave them all a change to show that they repented. It was here the tribe of Levi was set apart because they responded to the call of repentance in a worthy manner.
Ex 32:26 “Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD'S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.”
Aaron was a Levite. He and the rest of them came to Moses’ side and showed they wanted to do the Lord’s will. The ones who did not repent and who played a role in that sin were put to death!
Yes Aaron can be compared to Apostle Peter who denied Jesus as he felt the pressure that night. But later he repented and was taken back and made a leader. The other people who sinned can be compared to Apostle Judas who sinned as well by betraying His Master. But he showed no true remorse and fell out of favor with the Lord.
As Peter was given the leadership role so also was Aaron given a special role in the temple. It is because they repented.
So also are all of God’s children today. We are no better than the world. All have sinned. But one group turns to God and God uses them. The other continues in sin and is destroyed.