Numbers 17

The Word Made Fresh

1The LORD said to Moses, 2“Get twelve staffs, one from each of the leaders of the twelve tribes. Write the name of each leader on his staff. 3On the tribe of Levi’s staff write ‘Aaron.’ There must be one staff for each tribe. 4Put them in the meeting tent in front of the chest that contains the covenant law, where I meet with you. 5The staff that belongs to the man I select will sprout leaves, and that will be the end of the Israelites’ constant griping against you.”

6So, Moses spoke to the Israelites and the leaders, including Aaron, brought him their staffs. 7Moses set them before the LORD in the sanctuary.

8The next morning Moses entered the tent and discovered that Aaron’s staff had not only sprouted leaves but had buds as well which had blossomed and produced almonds. 9Then Moses brought all the staffs out to the Israelites. Each man took his own staff.

10The LORD said to Moses, “Put Aaron’s staff back in front of the covenant law to be kept as a sign to the grumblers. This should end their griping against me. In this way no more of them should have to die.” 11Moses did as the LORD instructed him.

12But the Israelites cried out, “We’re done for! All of us will surely die! If we come anywhere near the LORD’s sanctuary we will die! Is everyone going to die?”


1-7: To stem further dissension, God tells Moses to take a staff from the leader of each tribe. Aaron’s staff is to represent the tribe of Levi. The staffs are to be placed before the ark of the covenant, and one of them will sprout, thus showing which tribe God has selected for holy services. Moses collects the staffs and puts them in the most holy place as instructed.

8-11: The next day Aaron’s staff is found to have budded and bloomed and produced almonds, already ripe! God has thus demonstrated that Aaron (and his descendants) are the only ones chosen to minister in the tabernacle.

12-13: The people react with appropriate awe.


It is a curious thing to me that no one is suspicious. Moses is the only one who enters the most holy place. No one else enters to make certain that only the staffs presented the day before are placed there and that no other staff (complete with ripe almonds) has already been put in place. It all sounds a bit too easy. But the end result, I suppose, is as it should be.