Speak unto the children of Israel
The principal men among them of the several tribes:
and take of everyone of them;
not of every individual of the people of Israel, but of their princes, as afterwards explained:
a rod, according to the house of [their] fathers;
or "father", of whom their house or tribe was called, as Reuben, Simeon this rod was either a common walking staff, as some think, or rather the ensign of their princely office and dignity, peculiar to each tribe; though some think it was now freshly cut off from an almond tree, and that all the rods were of one and the same tree; but supposing they were all of the almond kind, as Josephus F4 thinks, yet being dry rods, and of long use, served to make the miracle appear the greater:
of all their princes, according to the house of their fathers, twelve
this explains who they were to be taken of, the princes of the several tribes, whose names are given, ( Numbers 1:5-15 ) ; and the number of them twelve, according to the number of the twelve tribes:
write thou every man's name upon his rod;
the name of each prince, or head of a tribe, either by cutting it into the rod, or fastening a writing to it, after the manner of those times; as, for instance, the name of Elizur for the tribe of Reuben; by which it was to be made and was made to appear, that to none of these tribes belonged the priesthood, but to the tribe of Levi, and to none of that tribe but the family of Aaron; whereby it should seem that some of all the tribes made pretensions to it, as being all holy, and especially the chief firstborn of every tribe, as such their princes were.
F4 Antiqu. l. 4. c. 4. sect. 2.