Numbers 17


‘The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff. On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe. Place them in the tent of meeting in front of the ark of the covenant law, where I meet with you. The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.” So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and their leaders gave him twelve staffs, one for the leader of each of their ancestral tribes, and Aaron’s staff was among them. Moses placed the staffs before the LORD in the tent of the covenant law. The next day Moses entered the tent and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the tribe of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the LORD’s presence to all the Israelites. They looked at them, and each of the leaders took his own staff. The LORD said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the ark of the covenant law, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” Moses did just as the LORD commanded him. The Israelites said to Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost! Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the LORD will die. Are we all going to die?” Numbers 17:1-13

The Budding Of Aaron’s Staff

In the previous chapter we say how Korah, Dathan, and Abiram tried to take over as leaders of God’s people, Numbers 16:1-3. We also saw how the Israelites tried to challenge the leadership of Moses and Aaron, Numbers 16:41-50, on both occasions many people lost their lives.

In this chapter we read about the confirmation of the priesthood of Aaron, this was to done to stop anymore contesting for leadership positions.

Aaron’s staff was a symbol of the tribe of Levi and the miracle recorded here was to prove to everyone in Israel that the sons of Aaron and the Levites were chosen by God and separated from Israel for the spiritual service of the nation. In other words, they were not self-appointed, they were appointed by God.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Sceptres, or staves, or walking sticks, were considered to be of the greatest importance. ‘Kings swore by them,’ and Judah was condemned by Tamar, using his ‘staff’ as invincible proof, Genesis 38:18. Esther touched only the sceptre of King Ahasuerus, but it saved her life, Esther 4:11. The Holy Messiah was identified by Zechariah as the one, above all others, who would have both a rod, and a staff, a thought also echoed in the Shepherd Psalm, ‘Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me,’ Psalms 23:4.’

When the staffs were gathered together, the names of each tribe were written on them, and on Levi’s staff the name of Aaron was written. In doing this, God would declare which tribe possessed priestly authority by choosing one of the staffs. This was the issue at hand in light of Korah’s rebellion.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following concerning the sprouting of almonds.

‘The name almond in Hebrew denotes the ‘waking-tree’, the ‘waking-fruit’ and is applied to this tree, because it blossoms early in the season. It serves here, as in Jeremiah 1:11-12, to set forth the speed and certainty with which, at God’s will, His purposes are accomplished. So again the blossoming and bearing of Aaron’s rod, naturally impotent when severed from the parent tree, may signify the profitableness, because of God’s appointment and blessing, of the various means of grace (e.g. the priesthood, the sacraments), which of themselves and apart from Him could have no such efficacy. Isaiah 4:2 / Isaiah 11:1 / Isaiah 53:2 / Jeremiah 33:5 / Zechariah 6:12.’

Notice that the staff was to be placed in front of the ark of the covenant law, this is a reference to the two stones tablets which contained the ten commandments, Exodus 25:16. In the days of Solomon there was nothing in the ark except the two tablets, 1 Kings 8:9, and so, it’s possible that Aaron’s staff was lost when the ark was taken by the Philistines.

The staff was kept as a sign that God had appointed Aaron and his sons and the tribe of Levi to be the priestly tribe of Israel. In other words, No one was to presume to be a high priest of Israel other than those who descended from Aaron. Remember, Jesus is our high priest today, not because He was a descendant of Aaron, Hebrews 2:17, but because of the order of Melchizedek, Hebrews 7.

It’s clear everyone took what had happened seriously, the now know if they try to rebel against God’s leadership like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram did, they too will surely die.

Wouldn’t we think we’re next to be judged and die after seeing, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, along with their 250 followers being killed?

Wouldn’t we think we’re next to be judged and die after seeing, the plague which killed 14,700 of those who sympathised with Korah and his followers?

Go To Numbers 18


"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Genesis 1:1