“Moshe spoke to the people of Israel, and all their leaders gave him staffs, one for each leader, according to their ancestral tribes, twelve staffs. Aharon’s staff was among their staffs. Moshe put the staffs before Adonai in the tent of the testimony. The next day Moshe went into the tent of the testimony, and there he saw that Aharon’s staff for the house of Levi had budded — it had sprouted not only buds but flowers and ripe almonds as well. Moshe brought out all the staffs from before Adonai to all the people of Israel, and they looked, and each man took back his staff.”-Numbers 17:21-24
Concerning Korah’s rebellion, there was still one key issue that needed to be settled.
And that issue was who indeed were God’s true set apart servants?
Was it the Levites or one of the other Hebrew tribes?
In order to settle this in a once and for all objective manner, the Lord devised the Test of the Staffs.
Well, in ancient Middle Eastern culture, the owner of the staff was the one who possessed ownership of a given tribe’s leadership.
There was ONLY ONE official staff per tribe and it was the tribal prince who carried ownership over it.
The connection between the staff and the tribe it represented is made crystal clear in the Hebrew.
Because the Hebrew term for BOTH “tribe” and “staff” is the same word.
It is MATTEH.
This was going to be a very important test to determine which tribe the Lord had especially chosen to represent Him.
The test was simple.
Each tribal prince was to hand over his staff with the tribe’s name engraved on it to Moses.
We’re talking about a total of 13 staffs (remember this is because the tribe of Levi was separated away from the tribes of Israel and Joseph was made into the two tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim).
Moses would then place the staffs before the Ark of the Covenant inside the Holy of Holies.
The symbolism being presented here is awesome.
In placing the staffs before the Ark of the Covenant, the 12 Tribes and Levi were essentially surrendering their wills to God so that His Will would be made manifest.
And specificaly how would God’s Will be made manifest?
The staffs were to be left in front of the Ark overnight and the one that sprouted, produced blossoms and even fully formed almonds would be the Tribe which the Lord had chosen.
So what happened?
Sure enough, the following morning when Moses entered the tent sanctuary, among the twelve staffs it was only Aaron’s staff that had budded.
The game was over.
Now I just explained the connection between “staff” and “tribe” via the Hebrew word MATTEH.
There is another interesting connection I want to share that can only be seen in the original Hebrew.
The Hebrew for “to bud” or “to blossom” is TSITS.
Doesn’t TSITS sound a tad bit familiar to you?
It should because it’s the same root word for TZITZIT, the ritual tassels we studied about in great detail a while back.
But wait, I’m not done yet.
TSITS is also the exact same term used to refer to the High Priest’s golden headpiece that had the words “Holy To YHWH” engraved on it.
Hence, there is a HOLINESS connection being made between the buds that blossomed on Aaron’s staff, his MITRE or golden head plate and the TZITZIT that all the Israelites wore on the corners of their garments.
But wait, I’m still not done.
Do you remember the design of the Menorah which stood in the Holy Place?
Do you recall that it also had hammered into its gold construction TSITS or almond blossoms?
This is awesome!!!
So what is so significant about almond blossoms anyway?
I can’t really say for sure as Scripture doesn’t give us a clear explanation, however I can tell you what Hebrew tradition tells us.
The almond tree is the first of the trees to blossom following the winter season.
In other words, after a season when there is death and literally no growth, the almond tree is the first life form to emerge from the ground.
And the almond blossoms that come up are the color white.
Recall that in Scripture, the color white symbolizes the HOLINESS and PURITY of HASHEM Himself.
Well, this Test of the Staffs finally put to rest any confusion, doubts or ambiguity in the people’s minds concerning which Tribe was the Lord’s specially chosen one.
In fact, the seriousness of what the people had done in rebelling against God’s chosen mediators had so stricken their consciences they exclaimed in terror “Oh no! We’re dead men! Lost! We’re all lost! Whenever anyone approaches the tabernacle of Adonai, he dies! Will we all perish?”
Of course they had jumped to an assumption that just wasn’t true.
But who could blame them considering that they had recently witnessed 250 rebels roasted to death by fire, a whole population of men, women and children swallowed up by the earth, and a plague that had just killed about 50,000 people?
They were probably thinking “oh no, we should never have rebelled against Moses and Aaron and now we’re going to pay for it with our lives”.
Of course, their deep-end assumptions were misplaced but God’s test had achieved its intended effect.
The people now had a healthy fear of God and now realized the danger and futility of challenging God’s Chosen Mediators, in this case Moses and Aaron.
NEXT TIME WE BEGIN NUMBERS CHAPTER EIGHTEEN