Study Notes

Numbers 17:1-18:32


Last week, we saw Korah's rebellion, and God's judgment against him and all who stood with him. The next day, the people rose up in rebellion, accusing Moses and Aaron of killing them all. God began to judge the entire congregation with a plague - killing over 14 thousand of them before Aaron ran into the midst of the assembly with incense to make atonement for the people. We pick up the narrative in chapter 17, verse 1...

17:1-7 A Demonstration Of Selection

The Israelites were grumbling against Moses and Aaron because they appeared to be taking this leadership of the people upon themselves. "Why does Moses get to be in charge? And why is his brother the high priest? This looks like nepotism to us!"

So God says, "I'll demonstrate to the people just who I have chosen. Take a rod from each tribe, and write their names on them. Then put them in front of the ark of the covenant. Tomorrow, you'll know exactly who I have chosen to be the high priest of my people."

17:8-9 The Budding Of Aaron's Rod

The next day, Aaron's rod had not only sprouted, but had buds, blossoms and ripe almonds! I love the visual here, when verse 9 says,

Num. 17:9 ...and they looked, and each man took his rod.

I can just picture eleven of them standing there with dead sticks, looking very foolish and humbled, while Aaron is holding this living, sprouted branch full of flowers and fruit!

17:10-11 Before The Testimony

Aaron's rod was kept in the tabernacle as a testimony to Aaron's selection, and a reminder for the people not to grumble against God's selection.

The Typological Picture

Now, it's been awhile since we took the time to look at any typological pictures. They have been there, open to the watchful eye. Certainly we could have stopped in our journey through the book of Numbers to examine the prophetic implications of types such as the younger Jewish brother Moses selected a Gentile bride, and his older siblings grumbled against him, rebelled against his authority, and were judged for it. But in hopes of learning as much of the Scriptures as possible before the Lord's return, we have been plowing through at greater speed.

But I cannot resist slowing to a crawl here to examine this simple stick of wood. Why? Because the high priesthood was confirmed by taking a dead piece of wood and bringing it to life.

Let's look at all we know about it: It was wood; It was dead; It was from an almond tree; It was brought back to life; Its resurrection confirmed the high priesthood; It bore fruit; and It was placed in the tabernacle next to the ark of the covenant.


Trees in the Bible are used to describe men. When Jesus progressively brought healing to a blind man, He asked the man if he saw anything. The response?

Mark 8:24 ...He looked up and said, "I see men, for I am seeing them like trees, walking about."

Wood, then, is used as a symbol of flesh. For example...

Jer. 5:14 Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, Because you have spoken this word, Behold, I am making My words in your mouth fire and this people wood, and it will consume them.

Lam. 4:8 Their appearance is blacker than soot, they are not recognized in the streets; Their skin is shriveled on their bones, It is withered, it has become like wood.

Aaron's rod was wood, representing a man, or flesh. Of course we know that

John 1:14 ...The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us...

Jesus would be properly represented in type by wood.


Having been broken from a tree by the Jews, the rod was dead wood. We are very familiar with the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ also was broken and dead at the command of the Jews. Of, if you prefer the picture, the branch was removed from a tree. So too, Jesus Christ, the righteous Branch of David was removed from the tree as sunset approached.

From An Almond Tree

Almond trees are interesting. They are called, "the wakeful tree," because they awaken from the sleep of winter before any other tree - blossoming in January, and bearing their fruit in March. Of all the sleeping trees, the almond tree bears the first fruit. So too,

1Cor. 15:20 ...Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

Almond trees are mentioned several times in Scripture, each time pointing in a special way to Christ.

Jacob peeled stripes in rods from almond trees, causing the sheep to beget other sheep. Those almond rods were a picture of Christ firing His sheep up for evangelism. For a complete view of that picture, see the notes on Genesis 30.

Next, we see the lampstand, the only source of light in the tabernacle, being described in Exodus 25 as, having...

Exod. 25:33-34 "Three cups {shall be} shaped like almond {blossoms} in the one branch, a bulb and a flower, and three cups shaped like almond {blossoms} in the other branch, a bulb and a flower - so for six branches going out from the lampstand; and in the lampstand four cups shaped like almond {blossoms,} its bulbs and its flowers.

The lampstand was a picture of Christ as the light of the world. Thirdly, in Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, saying,

Jer. 1:11-12 ..."What do you see, Jeremiah?" And I said, "I see a rod of an almond tree." Then the LORD said to me, "You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it."

The rod of an almond tree is here tied into the word of God, a title of Jesus Christ.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The fact that Aaron's rod was from an almond tree emphasizes its picture of Christ.

Back To Life

The high priesthood was confirmed by this dead almond branch's "resurrection." Although Aaron's rod looked like all the other rods, it was distinguished from the others by being brought to life.

Jesus, too, appeared to just like any other man, and His high priesthood was also confirmed by a resurrection from death to life.

Hebr. 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

1Cor. 15:14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.

The resurrection is the proof of the high priesthood of Jesus Christ.

With The Ark

The rod was placed in the presence of the ark of the covenant, which represented the throne of God. Jesus, after His resurrection, ascended to heaven to the presence of the throne of God.

Hebr. 8:1-2 Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.

So we see in Aaron's rod a foreshadowing of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

17:12-13 We Are All Dying!

The people had seen Nadab and Abihu smitten with fire from the Lord when they offered strange fire. Korah and 250 of his buddies were swallowed alive into Sheol when they desired the priesthood. The next day, 14,700 Israelites dropped dead by a plague when they assembled against Moses toward the tent of meeting. Now they cry out,

Num. 17:12-13 ..."Behold, we perish, we are dying, we are all dying! Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the LORD, must die. Are we to perish completely?"

But in fact, it was people's own individual sin that brought judgment upon themselves. Too often, God is blamed for exercising His righteousness, for meting out justice, when the true blame should be placed on the sinner.

The fact was, and is, that God must be approached on His terms. Back then, it was only the children of Aaron the high priest who could enter the tabernacle. Now it is only the children of Jesus our high priest who may enter.

18:1 Bearing The Guilt

The sanctuary would be defiled by the presence of impure people. The priesthood would be defiled by the presence of such people as Nadab and Abihu. The priests were held responsible for all of their guilt, thus God showed His mercy to the people that cried out, "We are all dying!"

To atone for the defilement, the guilt, of the sanctuary, the priests would have to offer the proper sacrifices.

18:2-7 Service Of The Levites

The Levites, as we have seen in previous chapters of Numbers, were to serve the priests - assisting them with all the physical responsibilities of the care, use, and transportation of the tabernacle. But even they, not being priests, must not come near to the holy furniture, else they would die.

18:8-19 The Priests' Portion

The priests and Levites would be given a portion of the offerings to live on.

18:20-24 The Priests' Inheritance

While every other tribe would inherit a portion of the land when they entered into Canaan, the Levites would receive no inheritance of land. Instead, the Lord was their inheritance.

18:25-32 The Tithe Of The Tithe

90% of what was tithed to the Lord went to the Levites. 10% was offered up to the Lord. This is the way that the priests and the Levites were provided for.

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