Numbers 17 & 18: Aaron’s Rod Sprouts Life


The full teaching for these chapters can be found here.

Numbers 16 features a rebellion by three leaders (Korah, Dathan, and Abiram) and about 250 of their followers. At the core of their rebellious attitude is envy and power. After a God-given test, the rebellious men are swept into the earth.

The next day the people murmur against Moses and Aaron. Poor Moses. No doubt he hoped the trouble was over when God judged the rebels, but now he had to deal with those sympathetic to the divisive people. God, however, reacts the same way towards the sympathizers as he did towards Korah and his company. What’s interesting for us to note is Moses and Aaron’s response. The Bible says, “they fell on their faces.” This humble reaction gives us a glimpse into the hearts of these two men—in spite of the people’s reaction and attitude, Moses and Aaron seek God first through prayer. They don’t try something on their own. They don’t argue with the people. Instead, they humbly pray.

God judges the troublesome people by sending a plague. However, Aaron, at Moses’ request, ran into the midst of them offering atonement with a fire and incense-laden censer. Literally the Bible tells us that Aaron “stood between the dead and the living.” In the Bible incense is often a symbol for prayer. To stand between the dead and the living speaks of how serious the matter of prayer is; it is no casual pursuit, no fatalistic exercise in self-improvement. Prayer moves the hand of God, and moves it to stop death and to give life!

Chapter 17 continues and concludes the story of Korah’s rebellion. As we read the chapter and the sign God gives to His High Priest, Aaron, we see the divine vindication of Moses and Aaron. The chapter’s emphasis is positive and unmistakable—God chose Aaron and he family for the priesthood.

The chapter describes a miracle as the leaders of each tribe bring a rod to the Tabernacle and God says, “It shall be the rod of the man whom I choose will blossom.” When Moses checked on the rods the next day, Aaron’s rod—and only Aaron’s rod—had sprouted. It not only sprouted, it had put forth buds. It had not only put forth buds, it had produced blossoms. It had not only produced blossoms, it had yielded . . . almonds. It had not only yielded almonds, it yielded ripe almonds! God is pointing out Aaron as His priest and, in so doing, telling the people not to question his authority.

God’s choice of Aaron’s rod did not mean that Aaron was the most spiritual man in the nation. God’s chosen leaders will have godly character according to the principles of 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9, but it wasn’t a contest to determine the most spiritual man among them.

It also did not mean that Aaron had not and would not sin or fail significantly. God’s chosen leaders may fail and they must set things right when they fail.

It meant Aaron was God’s chosen priest, and the nation was required to recognize it.

After the miracle of the budding rod, God takes time, in chapter 18, to paint a clearer picture of the priesthood for them, to show them, in part, it’s not a chosen position and not something to be coveted. He unfolds the responsibilities of priesthood, as a warning and also a reminder of how the nation needs to care for their priests through certain offerings and tithing.

The point that is being made in the central verses of this chapter is that not only do the priests and Levites have high responsibilities in their office, but also their calling involves sacrifices. They are not as other men. The reason they are to have no inheritance, as the other tribe is that the Lord is their inheritance. They are separated unto Him, and what are rightful and natural privileges for others are denied to them by virtue of their office and calling.


  1. God makes the rod of His chosen and ordained servants to bud and blossom and bear fruit. This is the overriding consideration of any godly work. We need to be content with what He’s given us to do and follow. He will cause the “rod” of our work to blossom and bear fruit.
  2. There is more to someone’s calling than Kudos. What so often attracts us from the outside is the kudos, the glory and the dignity that position seems to offer; the “other side” seldom seems to be seen, with solemn responsibilities matching every privilege.
  3. The provision God gave the Levites was simply the material symbol of the spiritual enrichment he provides with His presence.




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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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