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The confirmation of Aaron’s high-priesthood ch. 17
The fact that God halted the plague in response to Aaron’s atoning action with his censer (Numbers 16:47-48) would have proved that God accepted him as the high priest and not the rebels. God gave the miracle of the budding rod to make an even greater impression on the people to discourage further rebellion (Numbers 17:5).
"A man’s rod was the sign of his position as ruler in the house and congregation; with a prince the rod became a sceptre, the insignia of rule (Gen. xlix. 10)." [Note: Ibid., 3:114.]
"Almond blooms early with white blossoms and its fruits were highly prized (Genesis 43:11). White in Scripture symbolizes purity, holiness, and God Himself (e.g., Isaiah 1:18; Daniel 7:9; Revelation 20:11). Jeremiah associates the almond . . . with watching . . . (Jeremiah 1:11-12). All these qualities were personified by Aaron and the tribe of Levi. They were the holy tribe par excellence, who represented Israel before God and God to Israel, and they were responsible for watching over the people by instructing them in the statutes of the Lord (Leviticus 10:11)." [Note: G. Wenham, p. 140. See also idem, "Aaron’s Rod (Numbers 17:16-28)," Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 93:2 (1981):280-81.]
Aaron’s rod fairly burst into flower and fruit because God gave it vital power. This would have helped the Israelites appreciate that God had chosen the Aaronic family because He had sovereignly chosen to impart His divine life to Aaron and his sons by His Spirit. Moses had symbolized this bestowal when he had consecrated Aaron to his office and anointed him with oil.
"The message was clear: just as God could make an apparently dead rod miraculously bear fruit, so he could elect a line of descendants like any other and enable it to render priestly service fruitfully." [Note: Maarsingh, p. 63.]
God ordered that the Israelites place Aaron’s rod before the ark, which contained the Ten Commandments, with the jar of manna (cf. Exodus 16:33-34). He did so to help them realize that His choice of the Aaronic priesthood would continue in Israel. There is no reason to believe that the buds, blossoms, and fruits remained perpetually fresh. They probably wilted and the rod most likely assumed the condition it had before the miracle. The fact that the rod was there before the ark testified to the Israelites that God had chosen Aaron and his sons as His priests.
The people’s terror (Numbers 17:12-13) probably arose as a result of the miracles and judgments that had befallen the Israelites since Korah rebelled. God had vindicated His holiness, the people realized their sinfulness, and they were full of fear.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Numbers 17". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26