Numbers 17

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Read Numbers 17

The Budding of Aaron’s Staff

17 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffsfrom them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff. On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe. Place them in the tent of meeting in front of the ark of the covenant law, where I meet with you. The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.”

So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and their leaders gave him twelve staffs, one for the leader of each of their ancestral tribes, and Aaron’s staff was among them. Moses placed the staffs before the Lord in the tent of the covenant law.

The next day Moses entered the tent and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the tribe of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. Then Moses brought out all the staffsfrom the Lord’s presence to all the Israelites. They looked at them, and each of the leaders took his own staff.

10 The Lord said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the ark of the covenant law, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” 11 Moses did just as the Lord commanded him.

12 The Israelites said to Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost!13 Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord will die. Are we all going to die?”

Go Deeper

On the heels of Korah’s rebellion, God speaks to Moses and gives him a task that will serve as a sign to the Israelites. God uses the miraculous budding of the staff of Aaron to confirm His acceptance of Aaron as the high priest over any rebels. Verse 8 tells us that the staff of Aaron had not only budded, but blossomed and produced almonds. God produces on the staff, not one, not two, but three stages of fruitfulness. The white blossom of an almond symbolizes purity and holiness. 

God commanded them to keep the staff before the ark of the covenant as a reminder to the Israelites that Aaron and the tribe of Levi were the holy and chosen tribe. This reminder also served to discourage any future rebellion. Verse 10 says, “The Lord said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the ark of the covenant law, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.”

Grumbling amongst the Israelites is apparent throughout the book of Numbers. But the Israelites aren’t the only ones prone to complaining and instructed against it. In Philippians 2:14-15, Paul gives the church instruction to avoid all grumbling:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”

Notice in Numbers that grumbling leads to death, but in Philippians, the absence of grumbling leads to blamelessness and purity. Our refusal to complain sets us apart from the culture which gives us the opportunity to share the gospel.


  1. What stands out about the character of God in this chapter?
  2. What stands out about the nature of man in this chapter?
  3. In what areas are you prone to grumbling? Try replacing grumbling with gratitude in that area today.

Keep Digging

Check out this article from about the significance of Aaron’s rod.

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4 thoughts on “Numbers 17”

  1. Reading of the rebellious Israelites and their constant complaining leaves me feeling frustrated. No matter how God has revealed his holiness to them, they continually chose their own selfish ways, suffer the consequences, and never seem to learn from their poor choices. It’s an unending cycle of disobedience. I need to sit in this struggle. Truth be told, I’ve been one of them. I’ve lived prideful, entitled, and ungrateful, but just as God did then, he continues to pursue my heart showing me a better way to live. Through the gift of his Son my debt has been paid and I’ve been set free to walk in freedom, humility and gratitude. As I lean into him, my heart is transformed to mirror the fruit of the spirit— love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

  2. BUT GOD showed them/us so many mercies, over and over and what do we do, complain. Maybe there has been some lip service about trusting God but is the heart really involved? Do you see the glass half empty ie gripe complain mummer to what should really be; or do you see your glass half full ie things will be ok, God is in the middle, how can I use this … to glorify God? We all need a rod of Aaron in our home to see when the enemy throws his fiery darts, so that we know God has got this. As the rod budded, bloomed and blossomed, let us be like that, fruitful, godly and under His authority.

    God thank You for the pictures You paint in and through Your Word. Thank You for more and more understanding for me to know what You are teaching me so that I may renew my mind and change my heart to be more full to overflowing of and about You, effervescing!!!! God thank You for seeing people today in these minutes through Your love goggles. Thank You that I can love them, be kind and not complain. Thank You for Your great LOVE that is some overwhelmingly gracious in Jesus name amen

  3. Diane Frances Rogers

    The Living Word of God. Trustworthy today as it was back then and yet we still have repeated the behavior of the Israelites in our grumbling and complaining. (insert self) I pray Lord that I focus my thoughts on how you have guided, blessed and protected me all the days of my life. Thank you for a love so rich and deep that you sent your son, Jesus. My debt is paid. It is in His name I pray, amen.

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