King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Numbers 17

Twelve rods laid up before the Lord. (1-7) Aaron’s rod buds, and is kept for a memorial. (8-13)

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Twelve rods laid up before the Lord

1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

2 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.

3 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.

4 And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you.

5 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.

6 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.

7 And Moses laid up the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness.

Aaron’s rod buds, and is kept for a memorial

8 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.

9 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.

10 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.

11 And Moses did so: as the LORD commanded him, so did he.

12 And the children of Israel spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish.

13 Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the LORD shall die: shall we be consumed with dying?

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 2. Speak. The cause of the different families of the Levites now being fully decided, that one of the other tribes might pretend to the honour of the priesthood, God orders Moses to propose another miracle to them, of a less terrible nature than the preceding one. — Man, or prince of the tribe. H. — The name of Aaron was written upon his staff, which was taken from an almond tree; those of the princes of the other tribes appeared upon their respective rods, and represented their different families, v. 3. C.

Ver. 5. They murmur. Hence it seems this miracle was not unnecessary, as the people were still inclined to murmur at the pre-eminence given to Aaron. H.

Ver. 6. Besides, &c. Heb. and the other versions, “the rod of Aaron was in the midst of their rods.” Whence some infer, that there were only 12 rods. But Origen, (hom. 9,) and most others, allow 13, as the tribe of Joseph was divided into those of Ephraim and Manasses; (C.) each of whom had a proper representative or prince. See C. ii. 18. 20. x. 22. xiii. 9. 12. The tribe of Levi is generally placed by itself. If there were only 12 rods, whether would the name of Elisama, or that of Gamaliel, designate the tribe of Joseph? Who was properly the prince of that udivided tribe? H.

Ver. 8. The rod of Aaron for the house of Levi, was budded, &c. This rod of Aaron, which thus miraculously brought forth fruit, was a figure of the blessed Virgin conceiving and bringing forth her Son, without any prejudice to her virginity. Ch. — Almonds. Buds, blossoms, leaves, and fruit just formed, (Is. xviii. 5,) appeared upon the rod, which before was dry. Tostat believes, that it continued in the same state during the whole time that it was preserved in the ark. “The grace of the priesthood never fades.” S. Amb. ep. 63. or 58. The almond tree is the first which blossoms, and therefore it is styled a watching rod. Jer. i. 11. The Fathers observe in this of Aaron, a figure of Christ’s passion and glorious resurrection; and Origen (hom. 9,) remarks, that from his cross proceed the sweet odours of virtue, and the fruits of converted nations. C. — For Christ made peace through the blood of his cross. Colos. i. 20. The blessed Virgin, whom the blooming rod also represents, might as easily become a mother without losing her virginal integrity, as this dry rod might produce fruit, without receiving any moisture from the earth. S. Aug. S. Greg. Nys. S. Bern. &c. W.

Ver. 10. Testimony. S. Paul (Heb. ix. 4,) says it was in the ark. See Deut. xxxi. 26. C. — It was not the rod with which so many miracles had been wrought. T.

Ver. 12. All perish. Many had been already destroyed. Those who remained, and were conscious of their seditious practices, feared a similar treatment. H.

Ver. 13. Destroyed. They betray the sentiments of their hearts; though some believe that they were now entering into themselves, and desirous to know what they must do to escape the fate of their brethren. God gives them an answer in the following chapter, teaching them that they must refrain from approaching to the tabernacle, unless they be authorized; and provide such things as are requisite for the maintenance of those, whom he has chosen for his ministers. C. — Afterwards, he passes over the transactions of about 35 years, in profound silence, that the memory of those who had so often murmured, might perish. Salien. A.C. 1505.