Verses of Numbers 17
Numbers 17:10 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
AARON’S ROD THAT BUDDED
Num 17:10. 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.
ONE cannot read one page in the Bible without seeing abundant evidence that God delighteth in the exercise of mercy. Judgment is with great truth called, “his strange act:” it is an act to which he never resorts but from absolute necessity: but mercy is his darling attribute; and to that he is inclined, even when the conduct of his enemies calls most loudly for tokens of his displeasure. Of this we have a surprising instance in the chapter before us. The competitors with Aaron for the high-priesthood had been struck dead by fire whilst they were in the very act of presenting their offerings to God; whilst their associates in rebellion, with their whole families, were swallowed up by an earthquake. These judgments produced a murmuring throughout the camp; and fourteen thousand seven hundred were swept off by a plague, which was stopped only by the interposition of Aaron. The people now were dumb: but God knew that, though intimidated, they were not so convinced, but that they would on some future occasion renew their pretensions to the priesthood, and thereby provoke him to destroy them utterly. Of his own rich mercy therefore he proposed to give them a sign, which should for ever silence their murmurings and preclude the necessity of heavier judgments.
In opening this subject we shall shew,
What God did to confirm the Aaronic priesthood—
He commanded the head of every tribe to bring a rod or staff to Moses, who inscribed on every one of them the owner’s name. These all together were placed before the ark: and the people were taught to expect, that the rod belonging to that tribe which God had chosen for the priesthood, should blossom; whilst all the other rods should remain as they were. On the morrow the rods were all brought forth. The owners severally took their own: and Aaron’s was distinguished from the rest by the mark proposed; “it was budded, and brought forth buds, and blossomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.” The controversy being thus decided, God commanded that Aaron’s rod should be brought again before the ark, and “be kept for a token against the rebels.” How long it was preserved, cannot be ascertained; but that it was for a very long period, is certain; because St. Paul speaks of that, and the golden pot that had manna, as known appendages to the ark. [Note: Heb 9:4.] Thus its use was not confined to that generation: it remained to future ages,
An evidence of God’s decision—
[The change wrought upon the rod in one single night, together with its having at once all the different stages of vegetation, “buds, blossoms, fruit,” this was sufficient to convince the most incredulous: no room could hereafter be left for doubt upon the subject. Nor do we find from this time even to the days of King Uzziah, that any one dared to usurp again the priestly office.]
A memorial of his mercy—
[Justly might the people have been utterly destroyed for their continued murmurings against God. But God here shewed, that “he desireth not the death of sinners, but rather that they should turn from their wickedness and live.” This was the avowed design of the test which God proposed; “It shall quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not.” What astonishing condescension! Was it not enough for him to make the appointment, but must he use such methods to convince unreasonable men; to convince those, whom neither mercies nor judgments had before convinced? Had it been given, like Gideon’s fleece, to assure a doubting saint, we should the less have wondered at it; but when it was given as a superabundant proof to silence the most incorrigible rebels, it remained a monument to all future ages, that God is indeed “full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great kindness.”]
A witness for him, in case he should be hereafter compelled to inflict his judgments upon them—
[It is well called “a token against the rebels.” God might at all future periods point to it, and ask, “What could have been done more for my people, than I have done for them [Note: Isa 5:3-4.]?” Have they not procured my judgments by their own wilful and obstinate transgressions [Note: Jer 2:17; Jer 4:18.]? — — — By this means, whatever judgments he should from that time inflict, he would “be justified in what he ordained, and be clear when he judged [Note: Psa 51:4.].”]
If we bear in mind that the Aaronic priesthood was typical, we shall see the propriety of considering,
What he has done to confirm the priesthood of Christ—
The whole Epistle to the Hebrews is written to shew that the Aaronic priesthood typified that of the Lord Jesus, and was accomplished by it. This will account for the jealousy which God manifested on the subject of the Aaronic priesthood, and the care that he took to establish it on an immovable foundation. Whether there was any thing typical in the peculiar means by which it was established, we will not pretend to determine: but certain it is that there is a striking correspondence between the blossoming of Aaron’s rod, and those things by which Christ’s priesthood is established. Two things in particular we shall mention as placing beyond all doubt the appointment of the Lord Jesus to the priestly office:
The resurrection of Christ—
[Christ is expressly called, “a rod out of the stem of Jesse [Note: Isa 11:1.];” and so little prospect was there, according to human appearances, that he should ever flourish, that it was said of him, “He shall grow up as a tender plant, and as a root out of the dry ground:” “He is despised and rejected of men [Note: Isa 53:2-3.].” If this was his state whilst yet alive, how much more must it be so when he was dead and buried! His enemies then triumphed over him as a deceiver, and his followers despaired of ever seeing his pretensions realized. But behold, with the intervention of one single day, this dry rod revived, and blossomed to the astonishment and confusion of all his adversaries. Now indeed it appeared that God had “appointed him to be both Lord and Christ [Note: Act 2:32; Act 2:36.].” Now it was proved, that “his enemies should become his footstool [Note: Act 2:34-35.].” On his ascension to heaven he was laid up, as it were, beside the testimony in the immediate presence of his God, to be “a token against the rebels.” There is he “a token,” that God desires to save his rebellious people: that “he has laid help for them upon one that is mighty:” that all which is necessary for their salvation is already accomplished: that their great High-Priest, having made atonement fur them, is entered within the veil; and that “he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” If any shall now reject him, he will be “a swift witness against them;” and God will be justified, yea he will glorify himself in their eternal condemnation.]
The spread of the Gospel—
[The Gospel is represented by God as “the rod of his strength [Note: Psa 110:2.]:” and in reference, as it should seem, to the very miracle before us, its miraculous propagation through the earth is thus foretold: “God shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit [Note: Isa 27:6 with Mat 24:14.].” Consider how the Gospel militated against all the prejudices and passions of mankind, and by whom it was to be propagated, (a few poor fishermen,) and it will appear, that the blossoming of Aaron’s rod was not a more unlikely event than that Christianity should be established in the world. Yet behold, a very short space of time was sufficient for the diffusion of it throughout the Roman empire; and, from its first propagation to the present moment, not all the efforts of men or devils have been able to root it out. The spread of Mahometanism affords no parallel to this; because that was propagated by the sword, and tended rather to gratify, than counteract, the sinful passions of mankind. The doctrine of the cross not only gained acceptance through the world, but transformed the very natures of men into the divine image. Such operations, visible in every place, and in every stage of their progress from their first budding to the production of ripe fruit, could not but prove, that the priesthood which it maintained was of divine appointment; that the doctrine which it published was suited to our necessities; and that all who embraced it should be saved by it. In this view every individual believer is a witness for God, and “a token against the rebels;” inasmuch as he manifests to all the power and efficacy of the gospel salvation: he is “an epistle of Christ, known and read of all men;” and, by his earnestness in the ways of God, he says to all around him, “How shall ye escape, if ye neglect so great salvation?” Yes; every soul that shall have found mercy through the mediation of our great High-Priest, will, in the last day, rise up in judgment against the despisers of his salvation, and condemn them: nor will the condemned criminals themselves be able to offer a plea in arrest of judgment.]
Those who are unconscious of having rejected Christ—
[It is not necessary in order to a rejection of Christ that we should combine against him as the Israelites did against Aaron: we reject him, in fact, if we do not receive him for the ends and purposes for which he was sent. Our inquiry then must be, not, Have I conspired against him, and openly cast him off? but, Am I daily making HIM the one medium of my access to God, and expecting salvation through him alone? — — — If we have not thus practically regarded him in his mediatorial character, we are decided rebels against God.]
Those who begin to he sensible of their rebellion against him—
[Men are apt to run to extremes: the transition from presumption to despondency is very common. See how rapidly it took place in the rebellious Israelites I No sooner did they see the controversy decided, than they cried, “Behold we die, we perish, we all perish! Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the Lord shall die: shall we be consumed with dying [Note: ver. 12, 13.]?” What consternation and terror did they here express! Just before, they would be priests, and come to the very altar of God: and now, they will not “come any thing near the tabernacle,” though it was their duty to bring their sacrifices to the very door thereof. So it is too often with us. Before we are convinced of sin, we cast off all fear of God’s judgments; and, when convinced, we put away all hope of his mercy. Let it not be thus. The very means which God has used for our conviction, are proofs and evidences of his tender mercy — — — Only let us come to him through Christ, and all our past iniquities shall be “blotted out as a morning cloud.”]
Those who confess him as their divinely appointed Mediator—
[From this time the Israelites never presumed to approach the Lord but through the mediation of the high-priest. Whether they offered sacrifices or gifts, they equally acknowledged the unacceptableness of them in any other than the appointed way. Thus must we do. Not any thing must be presented to God, or be expected from him, but in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. If we approach God in any other way, we shall find him “a consuming fire.” Let this be remembered by us: it cannot possibly be too deeply engraven on our minds. If God manifested such indignation against those who disregarded the shadow, what must be the fate of those who disregard the substance? If we reject Christ, we have nothing to hope for; if we cleave unto him, we have nothing to fear.]
Verses of Numbers 17
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Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
Charles Simeon (1759 - 1836) was an English evangelical Anglican cleric.
Horae Homileticae reflects the rich source of Biblical understanding of Simeon, a towering figure in the history of evangelical theology.