The Christ in the Book of Numbers–Part 3: Aaron’s Rod
A Bible Study Series adapted from “The Christ in the Book
by Shen Chuan Chen
After the Israelites sinned by
making a golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai, Moses rallied God’s faithful
to his side, and the sons of Levi duly responded (Ex 32:26). As a result, the
tribe was later consecrated to the Lord, in place of the firstborn of the
Israelites (Num 8:16, 18). They were given the responsibility to assist the
sons of Aaron to serve in the tabernacle (Num 3:6–13; 8:14–15, 19,
22–26). This grace was a reward for their loyalty. It was unfortunate,
then, that members of this tribe later led the people to sin against God.
After the Amalekites and
Canaanites had driven the Israelites back to Hormah (Num 14:45), a group
emerged to challenge the authority of Moses and Aaron. It comprised Korah, the
son of Izhar and the great-grandson of Levi; Dathan and Abiram, the sons of
Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, from the tribe of Reuben; and 250 leaders of
the congregation (Num 16:1–2).
The rebellion gave rise to one of
the most painful and arduous tests for Moses and Aaron in the course of their
forty-year leadership. It was an explosive conflict, with Korah and his
supporters forming the majority. As such, it was a situation that only God
could resolve and showed that the true authority belonged not to Moses or
Aaron, or to anyone else for that matter, but to the Lord Himself. As it
transpired, God exercised that authority to deal with Korah and his company in
a most severe manner (Num 16:31–33).
After this incident, God made
Aaron’s rod come to life: it sprouted, budded, blossomed and yielded ripe
almonds overnight. This confirmed the leadership of Moses and Aaron, and halted
the rebellion and the people’s murmurings (Num 17: 1–11).
1 PREFIGURATION OF CHRIST
The Book of Exodus portrays the
rod as a symbol of power and authority. For example, we learn of God enabling
Moses to turn his rod into a snake, to prove to the Israelites that he had been
chosen by God to lead them (Ex 4:1–8); Aaron transforming his rod into a
snake before Pharaoh and his magicians, to show that God had sent them (Ex
7:8–11); Pharaoh and his magicians’ counter-attempting to demonstrate
their power with their enchanted rods (Ex 7: 11–13); Aaron using his rod
to bring about the plagues of blood, frogs and lice on Egypt (Ex 7:19–20;
8:5–6, 16–17 ); Moses lifting his rod to part the Red Sea (Ex
During Korah’s rebellion, God made
use of Aaron’s rod to manifest His power. The outcome was not only the
cessation of the conflict, but also visual proof to the Israelites that God had
given His authority to Aaron. This action re-affirmed Aaron’s status as high
However, what was not evident to the people at the time
was that the rod also revealed important truths about the coming Messiah. Like
Aaron’s rod, Jesus Christ would resurrect; He would have the power of life (Heb
8:1) and be acknowledged as the most honorable, glorious and everlasting High
Priest (Heb 7:20–25).
2 AARON’S ROD
According to the law of nature,
all living things have a beginning and an end. However, this was not the case
with Aaron’s rod, for God gave it a new lease of life. This miracle hinted at
the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Even though death came to the
world because of the actions of the first man, Adam, resurrection would come
about on account of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:17–22). Hence, when Jesus was
about to raise Lazarus from the dead, He told Martha, “I am the resurrection
and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (Jn
2.2 Affirmation of Priesthood
They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them,
“You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one
of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the
assembly of the LORD?”
The Levites had been given the
privilege of ministering before God in the tabernacle, yet they were not
satisfied. Instead, they were jealous of Moses and Aaron and sought to usurp
their leadership. In doing so, they also rejected Aaron as high priest.
A biblical proverb says, “A sound
heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones” (Prov 14:30).
Jealousy is often invoked in those who are capable and upright. It is a
destructive force and is often the Achilles’ heel of many in authority. We
learn, for example, how jealousy made King Saul loose his glory, (cf. 1 Sam),
and prompted the chief priests to nail Jesus to the cross (Mk 15:10). Where
jealousy exists, Satan will work further to corrupt the heart of man.
In the wilderness journey, Korah
and the other rebels would have witnessed the miracles performed by the two
leaders—evidence that God had appointed the latter to their roles. Yet
jealousy made them disregard Moses and Aaron and put aside their reverence for
God and their own holy status in order to stir up dissension among the people.
In the end, God executed judgment by opening the earth to swallow up Korah and his
company. He also sent a plague that killed 14,700 Israelites (Num 16:49). Such
was the outcome of their jealous ambition.
Immediately after Korah’s
rebellion, God performed a miracle: He made Aaron’s rod come to life. This
miracle gave the stiff-necked congregation another opportunity to reflect on
their behavior. In truth, God did not need not to do this, for He had
personally appointed Aaron to his office and had already confirmed his calling
through many miraculous signs. Yet He chose to perform one more miracle to
re-affirm the status of His servant and to let the people know that they owed
him due honor.
Aaron’s plight could mirror the
experience of our Lord Jesus. Despite coming to the world as the Messiah, the
Jews did not give Him any glory or honor, and many failed to believe in Him.
Nevertheless, the Lord resurrected from the dead and manifested His status as
the everlasting High Priest (Heb 7:23–25).
2.3 Chosen Man of God
The Bible records that “the rod of
Aaron was among their rods” (Num 17:6). In this way, God wanted to show to the
Israelites that Moses did not manipulate the rods, but that the ensuing result
would be God’s own decision. When the rods were retrieved the next day, all of
them were in their original state except Aaron’s rod. The latter had
miraculously budded, flowered and borne fruit overnight.
What happened to the rod reflected
to some extent what Aaron had experienced. Like his rod, Aaron had been
indistinguishable from any other person before God chose him for service: he had
no obvious merits and no special status. But when he received his calling, the
Lord empowered him to overcome the schemes of Pharaoh; gave him the privilege
to stand before the ark of covenant; and appointed him to the office of high
priest to serve the most holy God.
Aaron’s blossoming rod reinforced
the point that Aaron was able to minister and bear fruit on account of God’s
divine grace and power. For that reason, no one had the right to reject him as
The miracle of Aaron’s rod also
reminds us that we, as Christians, were once sinners—indistinguishable
from others in the world. However, when God chose us, He bestowed us with power
and honor, and the privilege to partake in His holy work. Apostle Paul
understood this truth, for he said, “But we have this treasure in earthen
vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Cor
4:7). Our achievements are like the budding of Aaron’s rod: they are only
possible because of God.
2.4 Blossoms of Hope
The almond tree is native to Egypt
and Israel. It flowers ahead of other trees, usually in the first or second
month of the year, and announces the coming of spring. It has lush green
foliage, grey branches, fragrant white (or pink) blossoms, and green fruits
that turn brown when ripe, splitting open to reveal an edible nut. We can
imagine that the sight of Aaron’s rod blossoming and bearing fruit in the
inhospitable wilderness would have created quite a stir. But most importantly,
the flowering rod served to quell Korah’s rebellion and re-affirmed Aaron’s
position as high priest. Furthermore, this wondrous sign hinted at the future
Messiah and His status as the firstfruits of resurrection (1 Cor 15:20).
When Jesus came to the world, He
made it His mission to teach, heal and proclaim the gospel of the heavenly
kingdom. He showed compassion on the people who were, in His eyes, like sheep
without a shepherd (Mt 9:35–36). Through His work, the hearts of men came
to life. Therefore, Jesus was like the almond blossoms, bringing hope by
signaling the end of the harsh winter and the arrival of spring.
In response to Korah’s rebellion,
God gave a sign to the Israelites: He made Aaron’s rod sprout, blossom and bear
ripe almonds. By doing so, He put an end to their doubts and re-affirmed
Aaron’s position as high priest. However, the miracle also pointed forward to
the coming Messiah, specifically His resurrection, which established Him as the
everlasting High Priest. As Christians, we should trust in the leadership and
guidance of this everlasting High Priest with a submissive and humble heart.