on Numbers 17 :8
The rod of Aaron - was budded, etc. - That is, on the same rod or staff were found buds, blossoms, and ripe fruit. This fact was so unquestionably miraculous, as to decide the business for ever; and probably this was intended to show that in the priesthood, represented by that of Aaron, the beginning, middle, and end of every good work must be found. The buds of good desires, the blossoms of holy resolutions and promising professions, and the ripe fruit of faith, love, and obedience, all spring from the priesthood of the Lord Jesus. It has been thought by some that Aaron's staff (and perhaps the staves of all the tribes) was made out of the amygdala communis, or common almond tree. In a favorable soil and climate it grows to twenty feet in height; is one of the most noble, flourishing trees in nature: its flowers are of a delicate red, and it puts them forth early in March, having begun to bud in January. It has its name שקד shaked from shakad, to awake, because it buds and flowers sooner than most other trees. And it is very likely that the staves of office, borne by the chiefs of all the tribes, were made of this tree, merely to signify that watchfulness and assiduous care which the chiefs should take of the persons committed, in the course of the Divine providence, to their keeping.
Every thing in this miracle is so far beyond the power of nature, that no doubt could remain on the minds of the people, or the envious chiefs, of the Divine appointment of Aaron, and of the especial interference of God in this case. To see a piece of wood long cut off from the parent stock, without bark or moisture remaining, laid up in a dry place for a single night, with others in the same circumstances - to see such a piece of wood resume and evince the perfection of vegetative life, budding, blossoming, and bringing forth ripe fruit at the same time, must be such a demonstration of the peculiar interference of God, as to silence every doubt and satisfy every scruple. It is worthy of remark that a scepter, or staff of office, resuming its vegetative life, was considered an absolute impossibility among the ancients; and as they were accustomed to swear by their sceptres, this circumstance was added to establish and confirm the oath. A remarkable instance of this we have in Homer, Iliad, lib. i., ver. 233, etc., where Achilles, in his rage against Agamemnon, thus speaks: -
Αλλ' εκ τοι ερεω, και επι μεγαν ὁρκον ομουμαι·
Ναι μα τοδε σκηπτρον, το μεν ουποτε φυλλα και οζους
Φυσει, επειδη πρωτα τομην εν ορεσσι λελοιπεν,
Ουδ' αναθηλησει· περι γαρ ῥα ἑ χαλκος ελεψε
Φυλλα τε και φλοιον·
ὁ δε τοι μεγας εσσεται ὁρκος.
But hearken: I shall swear a solemn oath:
By this same scepter which shall never bud,
Nor boughs bring forth, as once; which, having left
Its parent on the mountain top, what time
The woodman's axe lopp'd off its foliage green,
And stripp'd its bark, shall never grow again.
on Numbers 17 :8
Yielded almonds - "Ripened almonds," i. e. "brought forth ripe almonds." The name almond in Hebrew denotes the "waking-tree," the "waking-fruit;" and is applied to this tree, because it blossoms early in the season. It serves here, as in Jeremiah 1:11-12, to set forth the speed and certainty with which, at God's will, His purposes are accomplished. So again the blossoming and bearing of Aaron's rod, naturally impotent when severed from the parent tree, may signify the profitableness, because of God's appointment and blessing, of the various means of grace (e. g. the priesthood, the sacraments), which of themselves and apart from Him could have no such efficacy. Compare Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 53:2; Jeremiah 33:5; Zechariah 6:12.
on Numbers 17 :8