Numbers 17:4
And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you.
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(4) Where I will meet with you.—Rather, where I meet with you.

Numbers 17:4. Before the testimony — That is, before the ark of the testimony, close by the ark. I will meet with you — And manifest my mind to you, for the ending of this dispute.

17:1-7 It is an instance of the grace of God, that, having wrought divers miracles to punish sin, he would work one more to prevent it. Twelve rods or staves were to be brought in. It is probable that they were the staves which the princes used as ensigns of their authority; old dry staves, that had no sap in them. They were to expect that the rod of the tribe, or prince, whom God chose to the priesthood, should bud and blossom. Moses did not object that the matter was sufficiently settled already; he did not undertake to determine it; but left the case before the Lord.Before the testimony - See Numbers 17:10 note. 2-5. 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 murmuring in the future regarding the holder of the office, a miracle was wrought 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—As 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—a practice borrowed from the Egyptians—upon his rod or wand of office. 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. These rods were to be laid in the tabernacle close to the ark (compare Nu 17:10 and Heb 9:4), where a divine token was promised that would for all time terminate the dispute.

Before the testimony, i.e. before the ark of the testimony; either mediately, close by the veil behind which the ark stood; or rather immediately, within the veil in the most holy place, close by the ark, as may be gathered by comparing this place with Numbers 17:10, and with Hebrews 9:4.

I will meet with you, and manifest my mind to you for the ending of this dispute.

And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation,.... In the most holy place:

before the testimony; that is, the ark in which the testimony or the law was; here they were laid as in the presence of God, who was in a miraculous way to decide the controversy by them, and put an end to it; for upon the ark was the mercy seat, over which were the cherubim, the seat of the divine Majesty, and where none could come at them, and where no fraud could be supposed to be committed:

where I will meet with you; not with the people in person, who might not go at any time into the most holy place; nor with Aaron, who only might go into it on the day of atonement; but with Moses, the chief ruler and representative of the whole body of the people, and who might go in there at any time, to consult with God about matters of moment and difficulty, and where the Lord had said he would meet him, Exodus 25:22; and now would, in a miraculous way, clearly show him, and the people of Israel by him, who was the priest he had chosen of all the tribes.

And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you.
4. All the staves were placed in front of the ark for that night.

Verse 4. - The tabernacle of the congregation. "The tent of meeting." See on Exodus 30:26. Before the testimony, i.e., in front of the ark containing the two tables of the law (Exodus 25:21). Numbers 17:4(Or ch.17:16-28). Confirmation of the High-Priesthood of Aaron. - Whilst the Lord had thus given a practical proof to the people, that Aaron was the high priest appointed by Him for His congregation, by allowing the high-priestly incense offered by Aaron to expiate His wrath, and by removing the plague; He also gave them a still further confirmation of His priesthood, by a miracle which was well adapted to put to silence all the murmuring of the congregation.

Numbers 17:1-5

He commanded Moses to take twelve rods of the tribe-princes of Israel, one for the fathers' house of each of their tribes, and to write upon each the name of the tribe; but upon that of the tribe of Levi he was to write Aaron's name, because each rod was to stand for the head of their fathers' houses, i.e., for the existing head of the tribe; and in the case of Levi, the tribe-head was Aaron. As only twelve rods were taken for all the tribes of Israel, and Levi was included among them, Ephraim and Manasseh must have been reckoned as the one tribe of Joseph, as in Deuteronomy 27:12. These rods were to be laid by Moses in the tabernacle before the testimony, or ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:21; Exodus 29:42). And there the rod of the man whom Jehovah chose, i.e., entrusted with the priesthood (see Numbers 16:5), would put forth shoots, to quiet the murmuring of the people. שׁכך, Hiph., to cause to sink, to bring to rest, construed with מעל in a pregnant signification, to quiet in such a way that it will not rise again.

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