Aarons Rod - RR181R32

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Aarons Rod
Course: Course - Numbers; Faith, Law, and History
Subject: Subject:Pentateuch
Lesson#: 32
Length: 0:39:01
TapeCode: RR181R32
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
Numbers Faith, Law, and History.jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission

Let us worship God. Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord, Jesus Christ. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. Let us pray.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we come into thy presence in terms of thy word, for thou hast said that we should come and cast our every care on thee who carest for us, and so we come. Thou knowest our needs, thou knowest our burdens, thou knowest our hopes in thee. We commit all these things into thine omnipotent and all-wise hands. Minister to us in thy grace and mercy. Strengthen un by thy word and by thy spirit. Watch over us and our loved ones, and draw them ever closer to thee. Bless us now as we worship thee. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Our scripture this morning is Numbers 17:1-13; the entire chapter. The subject: Aaron’s Rod. Numbers 17. “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man's name upon his rod. And thou shalt write Aaron's name upon the rod of Levi: for one rod shall be for the head of the house of their fathers. And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you. And it shall come to pass, that the man's rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you. And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, and every one of their princes gave him a rod apiece, for each prince one, according to their fathers' houses, even twelve rods: and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. And Moses laid up the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness. And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds. And Moses brought out all the rods from before the LORD unto all the children of Israel: and they looked, and took every man his rod. 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. And Moses did so: as the LORD commanded him, so did he. And the children of Israel spake unto Moses, saying, 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?” [00:04:28]

The key word in this text is rod

The key word in this text is rod. In the Hebrew, it can mean a chastening or chastising rod, a royal scepter, or a walking stick. It is also sometimes used figuratively to mean the staff of life; bread. Here it is a literal rod, a walking stick. Such rods or walking sticks were long, study, and well-worn, smoothed down for easy use. They were not like a cane. They were very long. They were also used as a ready and handy weapon, and a man’s head could be crushed open with them. Well into the medieval era, serfs and commoners forbidden the use of a knight’s weapons, such as a sword, could unhorse a knight on horseback with their staves even though such an act was illegal, but it was done. Thus, to understand what rods means here, we must think of a solid staff, useful for walking over a rough terrain and also as a very ready and useful weapon. A man with a rod could knock the sword out of a man’s hand before he could even come near him, because the reach was further.

Rods came in different styles. Men of authority, such as princes and chieftains, carried carved and ornate rods as the symbol of their rank. In such instances, the word rod could also mean tribe or clan, because it represented the authority of the clan that that man carried in his hand. We have a related fact in a bishop’s staff of authority. It is similar to a shepherd’s staff to indicate authority over the flock. A variety of similar symbols, all symbols of authority, are common to history as for example, a Celtic chief’s claymore, a type of sword. It is a mistake to assume that these rods of Numbers 17 were of almond wood. They could be of any kind of very strong wood. [00:07:47]

The princes of the twelve tribes were to submit their

The princes of the twelve tribes were to submit their rods or staffs to Moses. Also, a thirteenth rod, Aaron’s rod, was also surrendered to Moses. None knew what to expect. None knew why this was to be done. All the rods were taken into the sanctuary to be laid before the testimony, that is, before the ark. Then, the clan chiefs are told that the man’s rod whom God has chosen to represent Him shall blossom, and God will put an end to the idea of a democracy before Him. Every man’s name was to be written on his staff or rod. It is likely that all were already identifiable, showing the clan symbol, but no room is allowed for daft. All the rods are carefully labeled, so that no confusion is possible.

Verse 6 makes clear that there were twelve rods and then a thirteenth, Aaron’s rod. In verse 3, it is called the Rod of Levi, meaning that it was a rod of authority over that tribe. The next morning all presented themselves, and the twelve rods are returned to the twelve princes, and in none of them was there the slightest change. Then Aaron’s rod is brought forth. It had gone through all the changes of an almond tree simultaneously. It had buds, blossoms, and even fruit, all at one and the same time. This event left a vivid memory in Israel’s history, very vivid, so that rationalists have had to recognize that there is something to this story. They have tried to explain away this fact and have sounded ridiculous as a result. Now a days, they simply bypass this episode.

This miracle was a witness to the power of God. He can make the dead to live. He can make the dead to live whether it be a stick or a man. He is the ultimate power over all creation and nothing is impossible for Him. If God can perform so great a miracle with a dry rod or staff, what can He not do with men and nations? [00:11:10]

As a result, Aaron’s rod that budded was to be kept

As a result, Aaron’s rod that budded was to be kept before the testimony as a continual reminder of God’s power. Only the high priest would see it there, but it was a reminder to him, and through him to all the people of God’s great regenerating power. As against a radical democracy, God set forth His electing grace. Aaron was not chosen for any special merit, but because God chose to use him. We, too, are objects of God’s electing grace, and the good that we do is His work through us. A man-ordained equality before God is plainly negated. The modern church stresses democracy. God stresses His authority. Because the rod is also a sign of power and authority, as with a royal scepter, God makes clear that all authority is God-ordained, especially in this case Aaron’s and Moses’.

Because the entire episode is directed by God through Moses, Moses’ own status with God is clearly affirmed. In the words of James Philip, “The message that comes through in all this is surely clear and plain. ‘Hands off my work,’ says God. ‘Do not touch my anointed ones and do my prophets no harm.’”

In our day, democracy is so heavily stressed that it has saturated the churches. I learned awhile back of two very fine priests who were abused by their congregation because of something the bishop did, as though somehow he should go and tick the bishop off, as though it was in their power to order him to do so. In an editorial that I wrote for a future issue of the Report, I cited an example of this kind of thing. Years ago, I was at a church waiting for the pastor, because I was going to go to his home for dinner that day, and these two women came up, very obviously mother and daughter. The daughter was 35 or maybe a little older. The woman, perhaps 60, and the mother walked ahead f the daughter daubing at her eyes with a handkerchief, and the daughter told the pastor in a low, firm voice, “Never, never again use Psalm 23 in a service. It was used at my father’s funeral and it breaks my mother up every time she hears it.” Now, the arrogance of feeling that one has the right to bar the word of God from the pulpit. I thought of many things he could say later, and the pastor said he could, too, but we were both so startled that nothing occurred to us, but that kind of thing is commonplace today. [00:15:39]

Centuries after this episode of Aaron’s rod, Jeremiah

Centuries after this episode of Aaron’s rod, Jeremiah was given a grim task by God to proclaim God’s judgment on an evil generation. This judgment, however, was an aspect of God’s preparation for the future, for setting aside the Hebrew states, for the coming of the Messiah and the church to replace Judah. The vision of encouragement Jeremiah receives at this point, it’s Jeremiah 1:7-11, includes Aaron’s rod. There is an interesting reference to a staff or rod never budding in The Iliad, when Achilles says to Agamemnon in Cooper’s translation, “But harken, I shall swear a solemn oath by this scepter which shall never bud, nor boughs bring forth as once, which having left its stock on the high mountains at what time the woodman’s ax lopped off its foliage green and stripped its bark, shall never grow again, by this I swear.” Now it is interesting that God took something that was a common symbol of the impossible, and made it real. In Virgil, the King Latinas confirms his covenant with Aeneas with a similar oath. A rod would sooner bud than he’d go back on his word, for a rod, scepter or staff to bud was thus a common image of the impossible.

This episode does not tell us that Aaron was superior to other men, or better qualified than all others. It meant that God’s choice is sovereign, and we cannot, in any sphere, limit our obedience to only those authorities whom we believe superior to us in every respect.

The reaction of the people to this miracle is one of self-pity. Verse 12 is rendered in Jewish translation as, “Behold, we perish. We are undone. We are all undone.” The question at the end of verse 13 is rendered, “Shall we wholly perish?” The statement made here is, in part, repetitious, but with differing emphases each time. First, we perish. The Lord God is giving us over to death. No mention is made of Israel’s arrogance or sin. No mention of the demand for a democracy of religious authority. The clan or tribal heads had not, for a moment, suggested democratic power in the tribes. They had no desire to spread democracy below them, only above them, especially in the religious sphere. All the people were held to be equally holy. If so, why were they not equally capable of supplanting the clan leaders. [00:19:59]

Second, they said, ...

Second, they said, “We are undone, we are all undone.” They were finished, in other words, but they did not say this was because of their sins, nor did they express repentance. They do not say, “We have sinned.”

Third, in verse 13, in the last clause, they say, in Hertz’s words, “Shall we ever have finished dying?” This is a complaint against God’s continuing judgment. “Enough is enough,” they are telling God. Instead of repenting, they are indicting God as merciless. In other words, the effect of this miracle was terror, not faith. They had begun by insisting that all the people are holy. Now they, in effect, are questioning the holiness of God, but to indict God is a part of man’s original sin. To assent to the temptation to be one’s own god, determining or knowing what is good and evil, right or wrong, law and morality, to determine these things for oneself if to say that God is not capable of making valid determinations for His creation. This is what many churches are saying today, antinomian churches. “We can decide in the spirit. We are so spirit-filled that we don’t need God’s law. We can determine these things for our self. The miracle of Aaron’s rod that budded kept them from another immediate rebellion, but it did not change their minds. For them, ultimate power should reside in man’s hands, not in God’s. They had left Pharaoh behind them physically, but they were still more Pharaoh’s people than the Lord’s. Let us pray.

Our Father, we thank thee for this, thy word. In every age, it is a rebuke to the pretentions of men. We beseech thee, oh Lord, establish again the rule of thy law, the rule of justice, and make us mindful of thy authority. Teach us, oh Lord, to walk in thy ways and not in the ways of men. Give us grace, day by day, to meet our every burden and our every hope. In Christ’s name. Amen. Are there any questions now? Yes?

[Audience] Well, in the end they preferred cane{?} but the law, and as far as I know, there has never been a democratic period in the Jewish history. [00:24:23]

[Rushdoony] The book of Judges gives us a time when

[Rushdoony] The book of Judges gives us a time when there was no king, we are told, in Israel. In other words, God was not recognized as king, and He was the king. “And every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Well, when they had a godly ruler, Samuel, they rejected him and they chose a king, and when Samuel was deeply distressed, God told him, “They have not rejected you, they have rejected me that I should not rule over them,” and of course, William Penn first said it, and many of our founding fathers echoed it, “If men will not have God to rule over them, then by God, they will have men to tyrannize over them.” And, of course, that’s what we’re seeing now, increasingly. I have, since my student days, been intensely interested in the Thirty Years Way. When I was a student, I looked at every book on the Thirty Years Way in the Berkeley University of California library, and read those that I felt were significant, and since then I’ve read a few more. The thing that is must notable about that war, which is in a sense, a harbinger of what we have had in this century, was this. First, it was preceded by a breakdown of authority, godly authority, and the rise and the power of the state, unjust, tyrannical power. The princes seizing more and more power, adulterating the coinage, because even though Europe was awash with silver brought from the Americas, and gold as well, in their greed, they adulterated their own coinage, and had what we have: clad coinage, and all authority began to break down as the people recognized they were being robbed. They were wider awake on that than we are today. [00:27:54]

The other thing is the Thirty Years War was a time

The other thing is the Thirty Years War was a time of continuous, not battles, but warfare against civilians. Both sides figured the way to destroy the enemy was through a new tactic, total war against civilians, in ways that are unspeakable, that I couldn’t repeat here. Now this is exactly what’s happened in our age; the loss of coinage, the destruction of authority in one sphere after another, and warfare being waged against civilians. In this, well, it began especially with World War 2, when Churchill began bombing German civilians, and then Hitler responded by his massive bombing of London. In the most recent war, in the Gulf, there were very few battles if you could call them that, or engagements, between the Iraqi army and the American army. It was essentially a war against civilians that we waged, so the same pattern that, for thirty years, devastated Germy is returning. When men abandon God, they abandon law and order and decency, but these are the two times of total war against civilians. It’s a grim and ugly fact. It is not yet over.

[Audience] Well, in the Thirty Years War, the ostensible reasons were religious. One of the results was that no war after that claimed to be religious, so now the wars are for the state.

[Rushdoony] Yes, and at that time, Catholics were in alliance with Protestants, and vice versa. It was an excuse, and the thesis was similar to that of Mountjoy{?} and the war against the Albigensians when they took a city and he was asked by one of his subordinates, “How are we going to distinguish between the Catholics and the heretics?” and he said, “Kill them all. Let God sort out and choose his own.” [00:31:46]

[Audience] So we’re on the verge of wars without excuse

[Audience] So we’re on the verge of wars without excuse?

[Rushdoony] Yes. Yes, and I think there was no good excuse for this last war, but certainly, reasons of state which came in late in the Middle Ages and governed the Renaissance and the modern age has always said, the basic reason is we choose to do so. Yes?

[Audience] I’m going to switch a little bit. In Romans 12: 14, throughout the Bible, men have been up against persecution, Moses for one, and yet Paul tells us, “Bless them which persecute you. Bless, not curse.”

[Rushdoony] Romans 12, verse?

[Audience] 14.

[Rushdoony] “Bless them which persecute. Bless and curse not.” Now, he’s not talking there about things on anything but the personal scope, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another.” Now this is in the personal sphere, but we are also told in the scripture, “Do I not hate them that hate thee?” There is a difference in the way we treat somebody who is angry with us over something personal, and someone who is moving against God in what they are doing.

[Audience] The only way for me to figure it out was verse 20. That made it make a little sense. [00:34:51]

[Rushdoony] Yes

[Rushdoony] Yes. “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Again, we are in the personal realm. The previous verse says, “Avenge not yourself, but rather give place unto wrath for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ saith the Lord.” In other words, God says, “I will work justice against individuals who are ungodly. I’ll bring about judgment.” So, in effect, he’s saying, “Don’t take the law in your own hands.” He is speaking against the mentality we know as feuding. Now, it’s different when it is say, the enemies of God or a war against us, by an ungodly enemy. Then, we don’t great the enemy with, “Peace, brother. I love you,” when he’s murdering, killing right and left civilians and the like. No, that’s a totally different thing. Yes?

[Audience] Actually, when other people do that in that sense, they’re actually in their minds waging war against God by destroying the people that He made.

[Rushdoony] Yes, many things that people do constitute a form of waging war against God, and one of things we have to recognize today is that the modern state is at war continuously against God and against its own citizenry. If a man hates God, he cannot love his brother. Any other questions or comments? Well, if not, let us conclude with prayer.

Our Father, we thank thee that our times are in thy hands who doest all things well, that thou hast a purpose and a plan for our lives, that thou art ever mindful of us, and thou wilt never leave us nor forsake us, so that we may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper, I shall not fear what man may do unto me.” Quiet our hearts, still us in our impatience, forgive us our sins and our trespasses, and give us growth in thee, and use us for thy kingdom. And now go in peace. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost bless you and keep you, guide and protect you this day and always. Amen. [00:38:49]

End of tape

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