New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Num 17:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,

Num 17:2 Speak to the children of Israel, and take of them rods, one for each father’s house, of all their princes according to their fathers’ families, twelve rods. Write every man’s name on his rod.
Num 17:3 You shall write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi; for there shall be one rod for each head of their fathers’ families.
Num 17:4 You shall lay them up in the Tent of Meeting before the testimony, where I meet with you-
God met with Israel over the ark in the most holy place (Ex. 25:22; 30:6; Num. 17:4). But they were never allowed there. And so He also "met" (s.w.) with Israel at the door of the tabernacle, and spoke with them there (Ex. 29:42,43; 30:36). But the word for "meet" is used in Am. 3:3, where God laments that Israel had not "met" with Him and therefore they could not walk further together. The idea of the "meeting" was that God's word might be revealed, so that the people could walk with Him in His ways. It was an awesome invitation, to be able to meet with the God who only otherwise met with His people in the glory of the most holy place, over the ark. He as it were came out of that most holy place and met with them at the door of the tabernacle. But they weren't interested. Just as so many today. 

Num 17:5 It shall happen, that the rod of the man whom I shall choose shall bud; and I will make to cease from Me the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against you-
See on Num. 26:9. Israel’s rejection of Moses was a rejection of the God who was working through Moses to redeem them. Thus Korah and his followers “strove against Moses... when they strove against Yahweh” (Num. 26:9 cp. 16:11). Moses understood that when Israel murmured against him, they murmured against Yahweh (Ex. 16:2,7; Num. 17:5; 21:5). They thrust Moses away from them (Acts 7:27,39) - yet the same word is used in Rom. 11:2 concerning how God still has not cast away Israel; He has not treated them as they treated Him through their rejection of Moses and Jesus, who manifested Him.

The Hebrew for "murmur" is the word for "stop", and is usually translated in that way. The idea is that they didn't want to go further on the journey; they wanted to return to Egypt. Despite the wonder of the Red Sea deliverance. Their hearts truly were in Egypt. This sense of not wanting to go onwards towards the Kingdom, to put a brake on God's saving process, is the same temptation which in essence afflicts all God's people who have started the journey with Him. Their murmuring against Moses was a murmuring against God; our attitude to our brethren is our attitude to God.

Num 17:6 Moses spoke to the children of Israel; and all their princes gave him rods, for each prince one, according to their fathers’ families, even twelve rods; and the rod of Aaron was among their rods.
Num 17:7 Moses laid up the rods before Yahweh in the tent of the testimony.
Num 17:8 It happened on the next day that Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and put forth buds, and produced blossoms, and bore ripe almonds-
The language of budding, blossoming and bearing fruit is used in Is. 27:6 about all Israel. The initial hearers of Isaiah’s words would have thought back to how Aaron’s rod budded, blossomed and bore fruit as a sign that God had chosen that family and not all Israel. However, Is. 27:6 makes it clear that God’s ideal intention was that all Israel would be a nation of priests (Ex. 19:6). This came to fulfilment in essence with the end of the Levitical priesthood and the establishment of all those in Christ as a new priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5).  

Num 17:9 Moses brought out all the rods from before Yahweh to all the children of Israel: and they looked, and took every man his rod.
Num 17:10 Yahweh said to Moses, Put back the rod of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the children of rebellion; that you may make an end of their murmurings against me, that they not die.
Num 17:11 Moses did so. As Yahweh commanded him, so he did.
Num 17:12 The children of Israel spoke to Moses, saying, Behold, we perish! We are undone! We are all undone!
Num 17:13 Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of Yahweh, dies! Will we all perish?