Numbers 17:6
And Moses spoke to 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Numbers 17:6. The rod of Aaron was among their rods — Was laid up with the rest, being either one of the twelve, as the Hebrews affirm, or the thirteenth, as others think.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.The whole number of rods was twelve exclusive of Aaron's, as the Vulgate expressly states. 6. the rod of Aaron was among their rods—either one of the twelve, or, as many suppose, a thirteenth in the midst (Heb 9:4). The rods were of dry sticks or wands, probably old, as transmitted from one head of the family to a succeeding. i.e. Was laid up with the rest, being either one of the twelve, as the Hebrews affirm, or the thirteenth, as others think. And Moses spake unto the children of Israel,.... What the Lord had bid him say unto them concerning the rods, which they hearkened unto and observed:

and everyone of their princes gave him a rod apiece, for each prince one; every prince of the several tribes, and so a rod for every tribe, as well as for each prince:

according to their father's houses, even twelve rods; there being twelve tribes named after their fathers, or the patriarchs, the twelve sons of Jacob; and Joseph having two tribes which sprung from him, called after his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh, there were twelve rods besides that of Aaron; and so the Vulgate Latin version renders the words with the next clause,"and there were twelve rods besides the rod of Aaron;''in all thirteen; though the Jews say there were but twelve with it, allowing but one rod for Joseph, under whom were comprehended Ephraim and Manasseh, and reckoning the tribe of Levi one of the twelve so Aben Ezra observes, that the rod of Levi was among the twelve and Joseph had but one rod:

and the rod of Aaron was among their rods: in the middle of them, and was so placed, as Jarchi thinks, that it might not be said, because it was put on the side of the Shechinah or divine Majesty, therefore it budded; but being in the middle of them there could be no difference in that respect.

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 {c} of Aaron was among their rods.

(c) Though Joseph's tribe was divided into two in the distribution of the land, yet here it is but one and Levi makes a tribe.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. the staff of Aaron was in the midst of their staves] We are perhaps to think of the thirteen staves as stuck into the ground and standing erect, Aaron’s staff being the middle one.Verse 6. - And the rod of Aaron was among the rods. As there was no prince from whom this rod could have come, and as there were twelve rods without it, this must mean that Moses did not keep Aaron's rod separate (which might have caused suspicion), but let it be seen amongst the others. Thereupon they both went into the court of (פּני אל, as in Leviticus 9:5) the tabernacle, and God commanded them to rise up (הרמּוּ, Niphal of רמם equals רוּם; see Ges. 65, Anm. 5) out of this congregation, which He would immediately destroy. But they fell upon their faces in prayer, as in Numbers 16:21-22. This time, however, they could not avert the bursting forth of the wrathful judgment, as they had done the day before (Numbers 16:22). The plague had already commenced, when Moses told Aaron to take the censer quickly into the midst of the congregation, with coals and incense (הולך, imper. Hiph.), to make expiation for it with an incense-offering. And when this was done, and Aaron placed himself between the dead and the living, the plague, which had already destroyed 14,700 men, was stayed. The plague consisted apparently of a sudden death, as in the case of a pestilence raging with extreme violence, though we cannot regard it as an actual pestilence.

The means resorted to by Moses to stay the plague showed afresh how the faithful servant of God bore the rescue of his people upon his heart. All the motives which he had hitherto pleaded, in his repeated intercession that this evil congregation might be spared, were now exhausted. He could not stake his life for the nation, as at Horeb (Exodus 32:32), for the nation had rejected him. He could no longer appeal to the honour of Jehovah among the heathen, seeing that the Lord, even when sentencing the rebellious race to fall in the desert, had assured him that the whole earth should be filled with His glory (Numbers 14:20.). Still less could he pray to God that He would not be wrathful with all for the sake of one or a few sinners, as in Numbers 16:22, seeing that the whole congregation had taken part with the rebels. In this condition of things there was but one way left of averting the threatened destruction of the whole nation, namely, to adopt the means which the Lord Himself had given to His congregation, in the high-priestly office, to wipe away their sins, and recover the divine grace which they had forfeited through sin, - viz., the offering of incense which embodied the high-priestly prayer, and the strength and operation of which were not dependent upon the sincerity and earnestness of subjective faith, but had a firm and immovable foundation in the objective force of the divine appointment. This was the means adopted by the faithful servant of the Lord, and the judgment of wrath was averted in its course; the plague was averted. - The effectual operation of the incense-offering of the high priest also served to furnish the people with a practical proof of the power and operation of the true and divinely appointed priesthood. "The priesthood which the company of Korah had so wickedly usurped, had brought down death and destruction upon himself, through his offering of incense; but the divinely appointed priesthood of Aaron averted death and destruction from the whole congregation when incense was offered by him, and stayed the well-merited judgment, which had broken forth upon it" (Kurtz).

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