Bible Commentaries
Numbers 17

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

Verse 1

destroyed, 12, 13.


Verse 2

Verse Numbers 17:2. And take of every one of them a rod — מטה matteh, the staff or sceptre, which the prince or chief of each tribe bore, and which was the sign of office or royalty among almost all the people of the earth.

Verse 5

Verse Numbers 17:5. The man's rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom — It was necessary that something farther should be done to quiet the minds of the people, and for ever to settle the dispute, in what tribe the priesthood should be fixed. God therefore took the method described in the text, and it had the desired effect; the Aaronical priesthood was never after disputed.

Verse 8

Verse Numbers 17:8. The rod of Aaron - was budded, c. — That is, on the same rod or staff were found buds, blossoms, and ripe fruit. This fact was so unquestionably miraculous, as to decide the business for ever and probably this was intended to show that in the priesthood, represented by that of Aaron, the beginning, middle, and end of every good work must be found. The buds of good desires, the blossoms of holy resolutions and promising professions, and the ripe fruit of faith, love, and obedience, all spring from the priesthood of the Lord Jesus. It has been thought by some that Aaron's staff (and perhaps the staves of all the tribes) was made out of the amygdala communis, or common almond tree. In a favourable soil and climate it grows to twenty feet in height; is one of the most noble, flourishing trees in nature: its flowers are of a delicate red, and it puts them forth early in March, having begun to bud in January. It has its name שקד shaked from shakad, to awake, because it buds and flowers sooner than most other trees. And it is very likely that the staves of office, borne by the chiefs of all the tribes, were made of this tree, merely to signify that watchfulness and assiduous care which the chiefs should take of the persons committed, in the course of the Divine providence, to their keeping.

Every thing in this miracle is so far beyond the power of nature, that no doubt could remain on the minds of the people, or the envious chiefs, of the Divine appointment of Aaron, and of the especial interference of God in this case. To see a piece of wood long cut off from the parent stock, without bark or moisture remaining, laid up in a dry place for a single night, with others in the same circumstances-to see such a piece of wood resume and evince the perfection of vegetative life, budding, blossoming, and bringing forth ripe fruit at the same time, must be such a demonstration of the peculiar interference of God, as to silence every doubt and satisfy every scruple. It is worthy of remark that a sceptre, or staff of office, resuming its vegetative life, was considered an absolute impossibility among the ancients; and as they were accustomed to swear by their sceptres, this circumstance was added to establish and confirm the oath. A remarkable instance of this we have in HOMER, Iliad, lib. i., ver. 233, c., where Achilles, in his rage against Agamemnon, thus speaks: -

By the keen axe, dishonour'd of its hair,

And cased in brass, for Latian kings to bear.

And thus in public view the peace was tied

With solemn vows, and sworn on either side.


When the circumstance of the rod or sceptre being used anciently in this way, and the absolute impossibility of its revivescence so strongly appealed to, is considered, it appears to have been a very proper instrument for the present occasion, for the change that passed on it must be acknowledged as an immediate and incontestable miracle.

Verse 12

Verse Numbers 17:12. Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish. — גוענו gavaenu signifies not so much to die simply, as to feel an extreme difficulty of breathing, which, producing suffocation, ends at last in death. See the folly and extravagance of this sinful people. At first, every person might come near to God, for all, they thought, were sufficiently holy, and every way qualified to minister in holy things. Now, no one, in their apprehension, can come near to the tabernacle without being consumed, Numbers 17:13. In both cases they were wrong; some there were who might approach, others there were who might not. God had put the difference. His decision should have been final with them; but sinners are ever running into extremes.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Numbers 17". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.