Numbers 17:8
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.
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(8) Behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded . . . —As the budding of Aaron’s rod was the divinely appointed proof of the establishment of the priesthood in his person and in his posterity, so our Lord proved Himself to be the true High Priest over the House of God by coming forth as “a rod [or shoot] out of the stem of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1), and as “a root out of a dry ground” (Isaiah 53:2). The miraculous shooting forth of Aaron’s dry rod may be regarded as a type of the mode of the Spirit’s operation in the Church, and more especially in the work of the ministry; “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).

And yielded almonds.—Better, and brought almonds to maturity, or yielded ripe almonds. The word shaked (almond-tree) is a cognate form of the verb shakadto keep watch. The name is supposed to have been given to the almond-tree because it blossoms at a time when vegetation is lying in the sleep of winter. (See Jeremiah 1:11-12; also, The Land and the Book, p. 319.)

Numbers 17:8. Into the tabernacle — Into the most holy place, which he might safely do under the protection of God’s command, though otherwise none but the high-priest might enter there, and that only once in a year.

17:8-13 While all the other rods remained as they were. Aaron's rod became a living branch. In some places there were buds, in others blossoms, in others fruit, at the same time; all this was miraculous. Thus Aaron was manifested to be under the special blessing of Heaven. Fruitfulness is the best evidence of a Divine call; and the plants of God's setting, and the boughs cut off them, will flourish. This rod was preserved, to take away the murmurings of the people, that they might not die. The design of God, in all his providences, and in the memorials of them, is to take away sin. Christ was manifested to take away sin. Christ is expressly called a rod out of the stem of Jesse: little prospect was there, according to human views, that he should ever flourish. But the dry rod revived and blossomed to the confusion of his adversaries. The people cry, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish! This was the language of a repining people, quarrelling with the judgments of God, which by their own pride and obstinacy they brought upon themselves. It is very wicked to fret against God when we are in affliction, and in our distress thus to trespass yet more. If we die, if we perish, it is of ourselves, and the blame will be upon our own heads. When God judges, he will overcome, and will oblige the most obstinate gainsayers to confess their folly. And how great are our mercies, that we have a clearer and a better dispensation, established upon better promises!Yielded almonds - "Ripened almonds," i. e. "brought forth ripe almonds." The name almond in Hebrew denotes the "waking-tree," the "waking-fruit;" and is applied to this tree, because it blossoms early in the season. It serves here, as in Jeremiah 1:11-12, to set forth the speed and certainty with which, at God's will, His purposes are accomplished. So again the blossoming and bearing of Aaron's rod, naturally impotent when severed from the parent tree, may signify the profitableness, because of God's appointment and blessing, of the various means of grace (e. g. the priesthood, the sacraments), which of themselves and apart from Him could have no such efficacy. Compare Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 53:2; Jeremiah 33:5; Zechariah 6:12. 8. 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. Into the tabernacle of witness; into the most holy place, which he might safely do under the protection of God’s command, though otherwise none but the high priest might enter there, and that once in a year.

Yielded almonds; this being, as Josephus with great probability affirms, a staff of an almond tree, as the rest also were.

And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness,.... Where none but he could go at any time; this was the day after the rods had been placed there:

and, behold, the rod of Aaron, for the house of Levi; the rod that had Aaron's name upon it, which was to represent the tribe of Levi, of which he was:

was budded, and brought forth buds; knobs of blossom, such that are seen on trees before they open; for the almond tree puts forth its blossoms before its leaves; though the Targum of Jonathan renders it "branches", as do some versions; and some think this is to be understood of its putting out its leaves first, contrary to the nature of the almond tree, and so makes the miracle the greater; thus Ben Melech:

and blossomed blossoms; open flowers or blossoms, such as appear on the almond tree in the spring, and look very beautiful:

and yielded almonds; ripe almonds, in their full perfection, as the Targums of Jerusalem and Jonathan; the latter of which is,"in the same night it perfected and brought forth almonds:''the word used has the signification of weaning, and alludes to children grown up to some ripeness and maturity, Genesis 21:8; the case seems to be this, that in one part of the rod were buds, swelling and just putting out, in another part open flowers quite blown, and in others full ripe fruit: now this clearly showed it to be supernatural, since the almond tree, though quick and early in its production of buds and flowers, yet never has those and ripe fruit on it at the same time; to which may be added, that this was not the time of year the almond tree blossoms; not the spring, but rather autumn, as it should seem, since it was after the affair of the spies and the murmurs of the people on their report; now it was the time of the first ripe grapes, when they went into the land, and they were forty days searching it, and it was after their return the insurrections before recorded were: the design of this was to confirm the priesthood in Aaron's family, and show that it would continue there, in a flourishing condition, and that there would be a succession of priests from him to the time of the Messiah, as there were; and the almond tree having its name in Hebrew from watchfulness and haste, see Jeremiah 1:11; may denote the vigilance of the priests in their office, and the haste punishment makes to come upon such that should oppose them, or usurp the priesthood, as in the case of Uzziah; so Jarchi remarks: this rod of Aaron's may be an emblem of the Gospel ministry of that rod that should come out of Zion, Psalm 110:2; which in the eyes of men is mean and despicable, like a dry stick, but becomes a fruitful one through the power of divine grace; and an almond tree rod may denote the vigilance and watchfulness of Gospel ministers over themselves and others, and their doctrine; and oftentimes whom God puts into the ministry he early calls them by his grace, and frequently makes the first part of their ministry most useful, and fruit is brought forth which remains: moreover, this rod may be considered as a type of Christ; it being a dry rod or stick, may denote the meanness of his descent and appearance in the world, and the unpromising aspect of his being the King, Messiah, and Saviour of men; and being an almond tree rod, may signify his speedy incarnation in the fulness of time, which the Lord hastened; his being the firstborn, and his right to the priesthood, and his vigilance in it; its lying among other rods, and budding, and blossoming, and bringing forth fruit, may point at Christ's assuming the common nature or man, his being cut off by death, his resurrection from the dead, and the fruits arising from thence, justification, peace, pardon, and eternal life; and as Aaron's priesthood was confirmed by the budding, &c. of this rod, so the deity and Messiahship of Christ are, by his resurrection from the dead; See Gill on Hebrews 9:4.

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

(d) To declare that God chose the house of Levi to serve him in the tabernacle.

8. Stories of the vegetation of dried sticks are not uncommon in legend.

Gray (Numb. p. 217) mentions that of ‘Joseph of Arimathea’s stick, which placed in the ground of Weary-all hill, became the miraculous thorn of Glastonbury.’ And he cites other instances.

Verse 8. - Was budded: or "sprouted." פָּרַח. And yielded almonds. Rather, "matured almonds." This particular rod had been cut from an almond tree, and it would seem probable that it had on it shoots and flowers and fruit at once, so that the various stages of its natural growth were all exemplified together. The almond has its Hebrew name שָׁקֵד, "awake," from the well-known fact of its being the first of all trees to awake from the winter sleep of nature, and to herald the vernal resurrection with its conspicuous show of snow-white blossoms, which even anticipate the leaves (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:5). Thus the "rod of an almond-tree" (מַקֵּל שָׁקֵד) was shown to the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:11) as the evident symbol of the vigilant haste with which the purposes of God were to be developed and matured. It is possible that all the tribe princes had official "rods" of the almond-tree to denote their watchful alacrity in duty, and that these were the rods which they brought to Moses. In any case the flowering and fruiting of Aaron's rod, while it was an unquestionable miracle (for if not a miracle, it could only have been a disgraceful imposture), was a σημεῖον, in the true sense, i.e., a miracle which was also a parable. Aaron's rod could no more blossom and fruit by nature than any of the others, since it also had been severed from the living tree; and so in Aaron himself was no more power or goodness than in the rest of Israel. But as the rod germinated and matured its fruit by the power of God, supernaturally starting and accelerating the natural forces of vegetable life, even so in Aaron the grace of God was quick and fruitful to put forth, not the signs only and promise of spiritual gifts and energies, but the ripened fruits as well. Numbers 17:8Moses carried out this command. And when he went into the tabernacle the following morning, behold Aaron's rod of the house of Levi had sprouted, and put forth shoots, and had borne blossoms and matured almonds. And Moses brought all the rods out of the sanctuary, and gave every man his own; the rest, as we may gather from the context, being all unchanged, so that the whole nation could satisfy itself that God had chosen Aaron. Thus was the word fulfilled which Moses had spoken at the commencement of the rebellion of the company of Korah (Numbers 16:5), and that in a way which could not fail to accredit him before the whole congregation as sent of God.

So far as the occurrence itself is concerned, there can hardly be any need to remark, that the natural interpretation which has lately been attempted by Ewald, viz., that Moses had laid several almond rods in the holy place, which had just been freshly cut off, that he might see the next day which of them would flower the best during the night, is directly at variance with the words of the text, and also with the fact, that a rod even freshly cut off, when laid in a dry place, would not bear ripe fruit in a single night. The miracle which God wrought here as the Creator of nature, was at the same time a significant symbol of the nature and meaning of the priesthood. The choice of the rods had also a bearing upon the object in question. A man's rod was the sign of his position as ruler in the house and congregation; with a prince the rod becomes a sceptre, the insignia of rule (Genesis 49:10). As a severed branch, the rod could not put forth shoots and blossom in a natural way. But God could impart new vital powers even to the dry rod. And so Aaron had naturally no pre-eminence above the heads of the other tribes. But the priesthood was founded not upon natural qualifications and gifts, but upon the power of the Spirit, which God communicates according to the choice of His wisdom, and which He had imparted to Aaron through his consecration with holy anointing oil. It was this which the Lord intended to show to the people, by causing Aaron's rod to put forth branches, blossom, and fruit, through a miracle of His omnipotence; whereas the rods of the other heads of the tribes remained as barren as before. In this way, therefore, it was not without deep significance that Aaron's rod not only put forth shoots, by which the divine election might be recognised, but bore even blossom and ripe fruit. This showed that Aaron was not only qualified for his calling, but administered his office in the full power of the Spirit, and bore the fruit expected of him. The almond rod was especially adapted to exhibit this, as an almond-tree flowers and bears fruit the earliest of all the trees, and has received its name of שׁקד, "awake," from this very fact (cf. Jeremiah 1:11).

God then commanded (Numbers 17:10, Numbers 17:11) that Aaron's rod should be taken back into the sanctuary, and preserved before the testimony, "for a sign for the rebellious, that thou puttest an end to their murmuring, and they die not." The preservation of the rod before the ark of the covenant, in the immediate presence of the Lord, was a pledge to Aaron of the continuance of his election, and the permanent duration of his priesthood; though we have no need to assume, that through a perpetual miracle the staff continued green and blossoming. In this way the staff became a sign to the rebellious, which could not fail to stop their murmuring.

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