The Budding of Aaron’s Staff
17 [a]The Lord said to Moses, 2 “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. 3 On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe.
God spoke with Moses with the instructions to get a staff from each leader of the tribes and write that leaders name on the staff. He specifically instructed that Aaron’s name be written on the staff of Levi. The staff is a symbol of authority. In gathering staffs, and inscribing each with the name of a tribe, and on Levi’s rod inscribing Aaron’s name, God would declare which tribe possessed priestly authority by choosing one of the rods. This was the issue at hand in light of Korah’s rebellion.
4 Place them in the tent of meeting in front of the ark of the covenant law, where I meet with you. 5 The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.”
God now instructs Moses to place the staffs in front of the ark of the covenant, where He will meet with Moses. He tells Moses that the staff of the man that He chooses would sprout and therefore be God’s chosen authority in matters of contention, ridding Himself of the complaining against Moses by the Israelites.This did not mean that after this, the children of Israel would never complain again. But God, having demonstrated more than sufficient evidence to the murmurers, would no longer regard their murmuring. Indeed, He would then judge their murmuring.
Not only would this obviously be a miraculous sign; the blossoming of dead wood spoke of fruitfulness. Fruitfulness is present when godly authority and leadership is being practiced. Thus God would give the people an unmistakable sign with the budding of the the chosen staff.
6 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. 7 Moses placed the staffs before the Lord in the tent of the covenant law.
So Moses spoke to the Israelites and their leaders gave staffs as instructed, with Aarons staff as well. Moses then placed the staffs in front of the ark of the covenant as instructed.
8 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. 9 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 next day Moses found that Aaron’s staff, the staff representing the tribe of Levi, had not only budded but had blossomed and produced ripe almonds! There is nothing remarkable about a piece of wood with buds, blossoms, or fruit on it. But a piece of dead wood with all these things appearing in one night after sitting in a tent is remarkable. God had given them many infallible proofs, to demonstrate His approval of Aaron’s leadership. God gives us more than enough evidence; the problem is a lack of willingness to see what He has made clear.
God’s choice of Aaron’s staff did not mean that Aaron was the most spiritual man in the nation. It also did not mean that Aaron had not and would not sin or fail significantly. God’s chosen leaders may fail, but must set things right when they fail. It meant Aaron was God’s chosen priest, and the nation was required to recognize it.
The next step was a dramatic scene. Each leader from the different tribes took his staff, and clearly saw that his had not budded or borne fruit, and that Aaron’s had.
10 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.” 11 Moses did just as the Lord commanded him.
The staff of Aaron was to be kept as a show piece, to remind the Israelites that God had chosen a priesthood, and nothing would change that, Aaron’s priesthood would always be Aaron’s priesthood. Aaron’s staff was to be kept in the ark of the covenant, as another sign of Israel’s failure and rebellion. When God looked down from heaven into the ark, He saw emblems of Israel’s sin: The tablets of law they broke, the manna they complained about, and Aaron’s rod meant to answer their rebellion. The covering blood of sacrifice was applied to the lid covering over these reminders of Israel’s sin, so God “saw” the blood “covering” their sin, and atonement was made.
12 The Israelites said to Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost! 13 Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord will die. Are we all going to die?”
The people of Israel were clearly convicted of their sin. They now knew without a doubt that it was wrong to rebel against the leadership of Aaron. After seeing all that God did in the rebellion of Korah – destroying Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, along with their 250 followers among the leading men of Israel; the retrieval and hammering out of the censers for a covering on the altar; the plague destroying 14,700 of those who sympathized with Korah and his followers, and the miraculous confirmation of Aaron’s priesthood – the people fear they are next to be judged, which was not an unreasonable fear.
This fear did not necessarily mean their hearts were changed. This will not be the last account of a complaining, murmuring Israel. This shows that dramatic events don’t take away our complaining and rebelliousness. It shows that the heart has to be changed by God.
- Numbers 17:1 In Hebrew texts 17:1-13 is numbered 17:16-28.
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