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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 17

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-5


Verses 1-5:

This message from the Lord likely came the same day as the events of chapter 16. It was designed to prevent any further outbreak of murmuring and rebellion such as that of Korah and his followers.

"Rod," matteh, a symbol of service and leadership. This is the word used in Ex 4:2-20, to denote the shepherd’s staff with which Moses served his father-in-law. It is used to denote Aaron’s staff which became a serpent before Pharaoh, Ex 3:10-12. It is used to denote Moses’ rod which he lifted up to part the waters of the Red Sea, Ex 14:16, and by which he led Israel.

The prince of each tribe in Israel brought his rod with the name of his tribe inscribed a total of twelve rods. The name of Aaron was inscribed upon the rod of the tribe of Levi.

There appears to be a difficulty with this number, in the light of Nu 1:5-16. Here, twelve princes are listed, and the tribe of Levi is omitted. This difficulty is solved, by listing the names of Ephraim and Manasseh as one, the tribe of Joseph

The kind of tree from which the rods were cut is not known, except in the case of Aaron’s rod. It was from an almond tree.

The twelve rods were to be laid up overnight "before the testimony," likely the Ark of the Covenant. God promised to designate His selection for the priestly office by causing to blossom the rod of the tribe of His choice.

This was an appropriate test. Each tribe was but a "rod" or branch of the parent stock, Israel. As each branch was cut off from the parent stem, there was no life in it. It was incapable of putting forth leaves, blossoming, or of bearing fruit. Aaron’s rod was the same as the others. God would demonstrate His selection by giving life to His choice.

This is symbolic of God’s choice today. Without His power, there is no difference among men. But God energizes His choice to fulfill His calling, and to bear fruit for Him, see Joh 15:1-8.

Verses 6-9

Verses 6-9:

Moses relayed God’s instructions to the people, and they complied. The twelve rods were laid up overnight in the Tabernacle. On the following morning, Moses brought them forth for all to see. The rod with Aaron’s name inscribed on it had put on leaves, buds, blossoms, and mature fruit.

"Almond," shaked, "the waker," so called because it was the first of the trees to waken from Winter’s sleep. Its snow-white blossoms are the first to announce the arrival of Spring.

This was a genuine miracle. As Aaron’s rod could not blossom and bear fruit by nature, so there was no more power inherent in Aaron than in any of the other "princes" in Israel. But God’s power gave life and fruitfulness to Aaron’s rod, demonstrating the working of God’s grace to enable His child to live a fruitful life.

The text implies that careful inspection was made of each rod. This confirmed the miracle and God’s choice. Then, each man’s rod was returned to him.

Verses 10-13

Verses 10-13:

God instructed that Aaron’s rod was to remain "before the testimony," or within the Ark (Heb 9:4). It was to be a perpetual reminder of God’s choice of Aaron and his descendants, to forestall any future challenge. How long this rod remained in the Ark is unknown. When Solomon installed the Ark in the Temple, it was no longer there, 1 Kings 8:9. Some expositors suggest it may have been removed during the time the Ark was in the hands of the Philistines, 1Sa chapters 5, 6.

The events of Korah’s rebellion and sudden death, and the miracle of the budding rod, instilled fear in the hearts of the men of Israel. They feared to come near the Tabernacle, lest they die as had Korah and his followers. This holy awe apparently remained with them for many generations.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Numbers 17". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/numbers-17.html. 1985.
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