Numbers 17:2-6 (KJV)

2 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. 6 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

In the above text its not clear whether Moses took twelve or thirteen rods into the tabernacle since Aaron's rod was said to be among those of the princes.

Numbers 1:2-16 (KJV)

2 Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls;4 And with you there shall be a man of every tribe; every one head of the house of his fathers. 16 These were the renowned of the congregation, princes of the tribes of their fathers, heads of thousands in Israel.

Earlier during the census(Numbers 1:1-16) when the princes were selected to head the Israelites they were twelve excluding the Levites

.Aaron's rod is said to have represented the house of levi which incidentally had no prince in the earlier census.

Could it have been twelve or thirteen rods?


4 Answers 4


I believe there were only 12 staffs as per the below text. Aron's staff was to be included in the 12 tribes.

Number 17:17 Speak to the children of Israel and take from them a staff for each father's house from all the chieftains according to their fathers' houses; [a total of] twelve staffs, and inscribe each man's name on his staff.
18 Inscribe Aaron's name on the staff of Levi, for there is [only] one staff for the head of their fathers' house.

God bless


Hebrews 9:4b

This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.

How many rods did Moses take into the tabernacle in Numbers 17?

The jury is still out on this one. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/numbers/17-7.htm

Barnes' Notes on the Bible

The whole number of rods was twelve exclusive of Aaron's, as the Vulgate expressly states.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

the rod of Aaron was among their rods—either one of the twelve, or, as many suppose, a thirteenth in the midst


The rods requested by the Lord may have been those carried by each patriarch of the tribe as a symbol of his authority over that house. Since the text is indefinite on this point “a rod for each father’s household,” not “the rod of each father’s household,” we can only speculate on this point, but that would have certainly been in keeping with the reason for the command.

It could be questioned whether the rods numbered 12 or 13. If the two half tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh are both represented by a rod from each half tribe, then the number of rods would have been 13 including the rod of Aaron. If the half tribes are simply represented as the tribe of Joseph, as they very often are in scripture, (Zechariah 10:6, Amos 5:6, Judges 1:22, Judges 1:35, Joshua 17:17, Joshua 18:52, 2 Samuel 19:20, Numbers 13:11, Revelation 7:8), then only one rod would have been given to represent the house of Joseph. This would seem to be implied by verse 3, “one rod for the head of each of their fathers’ households.” Since Joseph was the head of both Ephraim and Manasseh, it would follow then that only one rod was to represent that house.

Presumably, the name of each of the 12 sons of Jacob was to be written on his respective rod except for the house of Levi. On the staff of Levi was to be written the name of Aaron rather than Levi. This was to leave no doubt as to who specifically of the house of Levi God had selected to serve as high priest. This was to demonstrate that no one else of the house of Levi would ever have the right to lay claim to the Levitical priesthood.

This also demonstrated once and for all that it was not Moses who was exalting himself over the nation, nor was Aaron taking the high priestly position upon himself (This is even confirmed in Hebrews 5:4, “And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.”). This was the accusation of Koran against Moses.

It was not Moses or Aaron who made the rod blossom and produce fruit. By this the people could see that it was the Lord who had appointed Moses and Aaron. It was God who had chosen the house of Aaron out of all the sons of Levi.
The rods were to be placed collectively before the ark of the covenant and left there until the morning. This is the only time we ever find Moses or anyone other than the high priest permitted into the holy of holies, verse 8, “Now on the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony.”


How many rods did Moses take into the tabernacle (Num. 17)?

Answer: It seems there were 13.

The Levites were generally not counted among the other tribes, since their duties were confined to the Tabernacle/Temple. They were set apart by God:

Numbers 1:47-49: The Levites, however, were not numbered among them by their fathers’ tribe. For the LORD had spoken to Moses, saying, “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, nor shall you take their census among the sons of Israel.

Numbers 2:33: The Levites, however, were not numbered among the sons of Israel, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Numbers 26:62: Those who were numbered of them were 23,000, every male from a month old and upward, for they [the Levites (26:57)] were not numbered among the sons of Israel since no inheritance was given to them among the sons of Israel.

From the passages in the OP:

Numbers 17:2-3: “Speak to the sons of Israel, and get from them a rod for each father’s household: twelve rods, from all their leaders according to their fathers’ households. You shall write each name on his rod, and write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi; for there is one rod for the head of each of their fathers’ households."

There were 12 rods from each of the father's households that were counted, which would be the 12.

That should then mean there were 12 rods, one for each tribe, plus Aaron's to make 13.

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