Numbers 17

The Budding of Aaron’s Staff

1 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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?”

Numbers 17 Commentary

Chapter 17

Twelve rods laid up before the Lord. (1-7) Aaron's rod buds, and is kept for a memorial. (8-13)

Verses 1-7 It is an instance of the grace of God, that, having wrought divers miracles to punish sin, he would work one more to prevent it. Twelve rods or staves were to be brought in. It is probable that they were the staves which the princes used as ensigns of their authority; old dry staves, that had no sap in them. They were to expect that the rod of the tribe, or prince, whom God chose to the priesthood, should bud and blossom. Moses did not object that the matter was sufficiently settled already; he did not undertake to determine it; but left the case before the Lord.

Verses 8-13 While all the other rods remained as they were. Aaron's rod became a living branch. In some places there were buds, in others blossoms, in others fruit, at the same time; all this was miraculous. Thus Aaron was manifested to be under the special blessing of Heaven. Fruitfulness is the best evidence of a Divine call; and the plants of God's setting, and the boughs cut off them, will flourish. This rod was preserved, to take away the murmurings of the people, that they might not die. The design of God, in all his providences, and in the memorials of them, is to take away sin. Christ was manifested to take away sin. Christ is expressly called a rod out of the stem of Jesse: little prospect was there, according to human views, that he should ever flourish. But the dry rod revived and blossomed to the confusion of his adversaries. The people cry, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish! This was the language of a repining people, quarrelling with the judgments of God, which by their own pride and obstinacy they brought upon themselves. It is very wicked to fret against God when we are in affliction, and in our distress thus to trespass yet more. If we die, if we perish, it is of ourselves, and the blame will be upon our own heads. When God judges, he will overcome, and will oblige the most obstinate gainsayers to confess their folly. And how great are our mercies, that we have a clearer and a better dispensation, established upon better promises!

Cross References 18

  • 1. S Genesis 32:10; S Exodus 4:2
  • 2. Numbers 1:4
  • 3. S Numbers 1:3
  • 4. S Exodus 40:2
  • 5. ver 7; Exodus 16:34
  • 6. Exodus 25:22
  • 7. S Numbers 16:5
  • 8. ver 8
  • 9. S Exodus 16:7
  • 10. S Exodus 38:21; Acts 7:44
  • 11. ver 7; Numbers 1:50
  • 12. ver 2,10
  • 13. Ezekiel 17:24; Hebrews 9:4
  • 14. ver 2
  • 15. S ver 8
  • 16. S Exodus 23:21; Deuteronomy 9:24; Psalms 66:7; Psalms 68:18; Proverbs 24:21
  • 17. Judges 13:22; Isaiah 6:5; Isaiah 15:1
  • 18. Numbers 1:51

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO NUMBERS 17

In this chapter the priesthood of Aaron is further confirmed and established by the budding and blossom of his rod, as it lay among the princes of the several tribes, when theirs did not, Nu 17:1-9; which rod of Aaron was ordered to be laid up before the ark, as a token against the rebels, and to put an end to all murmurings against Aaron for the future; which was accordingly done, Nu 17:10,11; upon which the people expressed their fear of perishing because of their sins, Nu 17:12,13.

Numbers 17 Commentaries