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The Christ in the Book of Numbers—Part 3: Aaron's Rod
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The Christ in the Book of Numbers–Part 3: Aaron’s Rod

A Bible Study Series adapted from “The Christ in the Book of Numbers”
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).


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 14:16, 21).

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 priest.

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).


2.1 Resurrection

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 11:25).

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?”

              (Num 16:3)

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 high priest.

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.

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