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Numbers 17:1-12 – Aaron’s Blooming Staff


Among the staffs of all the leaders placed in the tent, only Aaron's is found to bloom, thus showing that he has been chosen by God.


The story follows another account of the people's rebellion against Moses and Aaron, which results in a great number of deaths. God's judgment is coming to pass: the older generation is dying out (Numbers 16:41-50). Now, God will demonstrate to the recalcitrant people that Aaron is indeed God's chosen priest. The staffs of each tribe are placed before God, with Aaron's name written on the staff of Levi to demonstrate to all the connection between Aaron and the priestly house. (In Hebrew, matteh means both "staff" and "tribe.") Already on the next day, Aaron's staff put forth buds, blossomed, and bore ripe almonds (the blooming staff is a common motif in ancient stories).We have already seen wonderful events associated with Aaron's rod during the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7:8-8:19). Now, his living rod indicates that God has chosen him as priest. This means, among other things, that he can approach the tabernacle to perform the rituals and sacrifices needed for the good of the people. Because of the holiness of God's presence, ordinary people cannot do this, as they recognize in fear in vv. 12-13.

Numbers 17:1-12

The Budding of Aaron’s Rod

17*The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2Speak to the Israelites, and get twelve staffs from them, one for each ancestral house, from all the leaders of their ancestral houses. Write each man’s name on his staff, 3and write Aaron’s name on the staff of Levi. For there shall be one staff for the head of each ancestral house. 4Place them in the tent of meeting before the covenant,* where I meet with you. 5And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout; thus I will put a stop to the complaints of the Israelites that they continually make against you. 6Moses spoke to the Israelites; and all their leaders gave him staffs, one for each leader, according to their ancestral houses, twelve staffs; and the staff of Aaron was among theirs. 7So Moses placed the staffs before the Lord in the tent of the covenant.*

When Moses went into the tent of the covenant* on the next day, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted. It put forth buds, produced blossoms, and bore ripe almonds. 9Then Moses brought out all the staffs from before the Lord to all the Israelites; and they looked, and each man took his staff. 10And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Put back the staff of Aaron before the covenant,* to be kept as a warning to rebels, so that you may make an end of their complaints against me, or else they will die.’ 11Moses did so; just as the Lord commanded him, so he did.

12 The Israelites said to Moses, ‘We are perishing; we are lost, all of us are lost!

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