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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 17

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 2

Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man's name upon his rod.

Speak unto the children of Israel. The controversy with Moses and Aaron about the priesthood was of such a nature and magnitude as required a decisive and authoritative settlement. For the removal of all doubts, and the silencing of all complaining future regarding the holder of the office, a miracle was performed of a remarkable character and permanent duration, and in the manner of performing it all the people were made to have a direct and special interest.

Take of every one ... princes ... twelve rods. Since the princes, being the oldest sons of the chief family and heads of their tribes, might have advanced the best claims to the priesthood, if that sacred dignity was to be shared among all the tribes, they were therefore selected, and being twelve in number-that of Joseph being counted only one-Moses was ordered to see that the name of each was inscribed upon his rod or wand of office-a practice borrowed from the Egyptians. The Babylonians had the same (Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,' b. 1:, ch. 19:, sec. 5, note 3). [ maTeh (H4294) signifies sometimes a tribe; but its primary meaning is a branch or bough: hence, an official rod or staff is an emblem of power.] This inscription of the names of the tribes on the several rods is an additional proof to those already met with, that writing was well known to the Israelites at the time of the Exodus.

The name of Aaron rather than of Levi was used, as the latter name would have opened a door of controversy among the Levites; and as there was to be one rod only for the head of each tribe, the express appointment of a rod for Aaron determined him to be the head of that tribe, as well as that branch or family of the tribe to which the priestly dignity should belong. The rod of Aaron was that which, having belonged to Moses, and been used by him in the performance of so many miracles, acquired a character of sacredness; and on Aaron's appointment to the office of the priesthood it was committed to his care. These rods were to be laid in the tabernacle close to the ark (cf. Numbers 17:10, and Hebrews 9:4), where a divine token was promised that would for all time terminate the dispute.

Verses 3-5

And thou shalt write Aaron's name upon the rod of Levi: for one rod shall be for the head of the house of their fathers.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 6

And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, and every one of their princes gave him a rod apiece, for each prince one, according to their fathers' houses, even twelve rods: and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. The rod of Aaron was among their rods - either one of the twelve, or, as many suppose, a thirteenth in the midst (Hebrews 9:4). The rods were of dry sticks or wands, probably old, as transmitted from one head of the family to a succeeding.

Verse 7

And Moses laid up the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 8

And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.

Moses went into the tabernacle - being privileged to do so on this occasion by the special command of God; and he there beheld the remarkable spectacle of Aaron's rod-which, according to Josephus, was a stick of an almond tree-bearing fruit in three different stages at once-buds, blossoms, and fruit.

Verse 9

And Moses brought out all the rods from before the LORD unto all the children of Israel: and they looked, and took every man his rod.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 10

And the LORD said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not.

Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony - i:e., either in the ark before the tables of stone (Ebrard's 'Comment. on Hebrews 9:4 ') or in a chest adjoining it (Davidson's 'Introduction,' 3:, p. 223; Owens 'Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews').

To be kept for a token against the rebels - for if, after all admonitions and judgments, seconded by miracles, the people should still rebel, they would certainly pay the penalty by death.

Verse 11

And Moses did so: as the LORD commanded him, so did he.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 12

And the children of Israel spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish.

Behold, we die, we perish - an exclamation of fear, both from the remembrance of former judgments and the apprehension of future relapses into murmuring.

Verse 13

Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the LORD shall die: shall we be consumed with dying?

Cometh any thing near - i:e., nearer than he ought to do; an error into which many may fall. Will the stern justice of God overtake every slight offence? We shall all be destroyed. Some, however, regard this exclamation as the symptom of a new discontent, rather than the indication of a reverential and submissive spirit. Let us fear and sin not. Between the end of this chapter and the beginning of Numbers 20:1-29 there is a protracted interval of 37 years. Nothing is known of the intervening period beyond a bare record of encampments (Numbers 33:1-56); for although it is said (Psalms 95:1-11) that for forty years the Israelites had grieved the Lord, the spirit of inspiration has blotted out all memorial of their provocations. In the altered circumstances of the people, the covenant being suspended in the wilderness, a new generation grew up who knew nothing of the Mosaic legislation at Sinai. Hence, a recapitulation of the most important statutes and requirements for the maintenance of divine service became necessary, and is contained in the following chapters, for regulating the conduct, not of Aaron and his sons only, but of the Levites in future generations.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Numbers 17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/numbers-17.html. 1871-8.
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