Wesley's Notes on the Bible
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
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.
17:2 Of every one - Not of every person, but of every tribe. A rod - That staff, or rod, which the princes carried in their hands as tokens of their dignity and authority. Every man's name - Every prince's: for they being the first - born, and the chief of their tribes might above all others pretend to the priesthood, if it was communicable to any of their tribes, and besides each prince represented all his tribe: so that this was a full decision of the question. And this place seems to confirm, that not only Korah and the Levites, but also those of other tribes contested with Moses and Aaron about the priesthood, as that which belonged to all the congregation they being all holy.
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.
17:3 Aaron's name - Rather than Levi's, for that would have left the controversy undecided between Aaron and the other Levites, whereas this would justify the appropriation of the priesthood to Aaron's family. One rod - There shall be in this, as there is in all the other tribes, only one rod, and that for the head of their tribe, who is Aaron in this tribe: whereas it might have been expected that there should have been two rods, one for Aaron, and another for his competitors of the same tribe. But Aaron's name was sufficient to determine both the tribe, and that branch or family of the tribe, to whom this dignity should be affixed.
And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you.
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.
And it shall come to pass, that the man's rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you.
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.
17:6 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.
And Moses laid up the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness.
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.
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 once in a year.
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.
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.
17:10 To be kept for a token - it is probable, the buds and blossoms and fruit, all which could never have grown together, but by miracle, continued fresh, the same which produced them in a night preserving them for ages.
And Moses did so: as the LORD commanded him, so did he.
And the children of Israel spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish.
17:12 We perish - Words of consternation, arising from the remembrance of these severe and repeated judgments, from the threatening of death upon any succeeding murmurings, and from the sense of their own guilt and weakness, which made them fear lest they should relapse into the same miscarriages, and thereby bring the vengeance of God upon themselves.
Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the LORD shall die: shall we be consumed with dying?
17:13 Near - Nearer than be should do; an error which we may easily commit. Will God proceed with us according to his strict justice, till all the people be cut off?