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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 17

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-13

Numbers 17:8 . The rod of Aaron was budded. In this sign there could be no imposition. The sedition was suppressed by the decision of God, who graciously in this way condescended to settle forever all future disputes. On the one hand we see that the aspiring of wicked men to the sanctuary, is highly displeasing to God; and on the other, ministers may learn to bud and bloom, and bear fruit in the sanctuary, by that power which could make the dry rod flourish. God will not forsake the faithful pastor, when an arrogant faction is formed against him.


The Lord having destroyed the two revolted families by an earthquake, burnt the profane with fire from heaven, and destroyed the murmurers with the pestilence; was now graciously pleased to compose all disputes about the priesthood by a full and final test. The rights of the firstborn to officiate at the altar, had originated from custom and authority rather than from a divine command, and their utmost claims could not extend beyond the limits of their own houses. To be national priests they had no call, no just plea. Nor could they spare more than occasional time to officiate at the altar, and the arduous nature of the duty would now require the preparations and study of their whole lives. Besides, under the christian ministry, the Lord never designed to pay regard to the order or preĆ«minence of men’s birth. Therefore, once for all, to show his sovereign right to choose his own peculiar servants, and to settle all disputes on that head; he assembled the elders of Israel, and enjoined the firstborn, or a prince of each tribe, to deposit his staff, his staff of office or sceptre of power. And on the morrow, Aaron’s almond rod was adorned with leaves, blossoms and fruit. The dry rod in a desert land at the divine pleasure, produced fruit, as well as the dry rock a torrent of water. How gracious is the Lord to the weakness, the passions, and prejudices of man!

In this rod we have a very distinguished figure of Christ. “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, says Isaiah, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Isaiah 11:1. The sceptre of his kingdom was to be a sceptre of righteousness. In his person and family, it is true, he was poor; and on the cross, according to David, he was dried up like a potsherd. But he arose from the dead, he flourished as the dry almond-tree, and filled all the earth with the beauty of righteousness and the fragrance of his holy name. In this rod we see his ministers also, poor and dry in themselves, made fruitful in the Lord. We see in it the resurrection of the saints; fainting with afflictions, and dried up with tears, they revive as the spring, and flourish for ever in the paradise of God.

This rod was preserved to instruct future generations, that there might be no more contests about the priesthood. May one error more than suffice for each of us, and may we never run into it a second time.

God would not suffer order to be violated, to teach us that no new doctrines, no new forms of worship, can be imposed on man, without divine authority and power. Let us rather seek to profit by what we already know, than desire any new discoveries of the will of heaven; and especially, as we are brought from the rigours of the law to the mild and unfading glory of the gospel.

We may next remark, that the people sunk from presumption to despair. Behold, say they, we die, we perish, we all perish. How common is this sentiment with infidels, and hardened men. When the judgments they despised overtake them, they are forsaken of all their boasted confidence, because they have no confidence in the Lord. Let us live well with God, and then we shall be composed and calm when surrounded with his judgments.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 17". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/numbers-17.html. 1835.
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