Num 20:8-9  "Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink."  9  So Moses took the rod from before the LORD, just as He had commanded him;

I have always understood this to be the same rod mentioned in Exodus 4-17, but it now appears more likely that it was Aaron's staff, which budded and was placed in the tent of meeting just a few chapters earlier in Num 17.

Num 17:10-11  But the LORD said to Moses, "Put back the rod of Aaron before the testimony to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put an end to their grumblings against Me, so that they will not die."  11  Thus Moses did; just as the LORD had commanded him, so he did.

Most of my commentaries identify it as Moses' staff, and a quick google search showed me that there is a rabbinical tradition that the staff of Moses and the staff of Aaron are indeed the same staff, but I don't see that explicitly in the text anywhere.

  • I agree that there is no evidence of this. Indeed, the fact that the rod was placed in the Ark suggests that Moses was using a different rod.
    – user25930
    Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 20:01
  • 1
    Thanks Mac. I would love someone to chime in with textual evidence in one direction or the other.
    – Robb
    Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 23:08
  • Thanks Ruminator for the formatting. I am new to this forum. Is there a way that I can do that from the outset next time?
    – Robb
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 14:24

4 Answers 4


Num 20:9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD(from the presence of the Lord), as he commanded him. Where is "from before the Lord"? The ark of testimony of course. Whose rod was in the ark of testimony ?

Num 17:10-11 But the LORD said to Moses, "Put back the rod of Aaron before the testimony to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put an end to their grumblings against Me so that they will not die." 11 Thus Moses did; just as the LORD had commanded him, so he did.


It was the "rod of God" that was used. This rod is the same rod which Moses originally had when confronting the burning bush, and which Aaron initially carried to work miracles before Pharaoh.

Exodus 4:17 And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs.

Exodus 4:20 And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.

Exodus 17:9 And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.

No doubt this rod of God was kept before the LORD, whereas Aaron's rod that budded was simply "a rod", the rod for the head of the house of Levi.

Numbers 17:2-3 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.

So I don't think there's any reason to believe that this "rod" they took "from before the LORD" for working a miracle would have been any different from what they (Moses and Aaron) were used to using.


The following response simply adds some clarification to the response of Daniel L and is based on the same texts with some added nuances.

The proof (or support) that Aaron's staff is identical with Moses' staff is not found in the Numbers text, but is strongly suggested by the Exodus text. The following sequence of verses suggest the following three are the same:

  1. Moses’ staff

  2. Aaron's staff

  3. The staff of God

Here are the verses and their implications

  1. Exodus 4:2-4 introduces us to a staff that is converted to a snake and then back to a staff.

  2. Exodus 4:17 explicitly identifies this staff as "the staff" with which Moses will perform miracles (before Pharaoh)."

  3. Exodus 4:20 refers to the "staff of God" linking the description "staff of God" to the staff of Exodus 4. (Note how the next verse 21 connects this staff with the wonders that Moses is to do before Pharaoh consistent with Exodus 4:17.)

  4. Exodus 7:15 explicitly describes the staff with which Moses performed miracles before Pharaoh as "the staff that was converted to a snake" providing consistency with all the above sources.

The following verse (actually paragraph) also links this staff to Aaron.

Exodus 7:8-13 relates the staff that turns into a tannin (snake or crocodile) before Pharaoh. In this paragraph, the staff is described as Aaron's staff.

It is very reasonable and plausible that this staff is not a separate staff but the staff spoken about in Exodus 4, and Exodus 7:15. In fact verses 8 and 9 read:

God spoke to Moses and Aaron. When Pharaoh speaks to you asking for a wonder(sign), then tell Aaron to take your staff and throw it before Pharaoh; it will become a tannin.

We can read the word "your" in these verses as referring to Moses. Aaron is commanded to take Moses' staff designated for miracles and to throw it before Pharaoh. Since Aaron performed on this occasion, the staff is also called Aaron's staff.

Returning to Numbers 17:18, there is no indication in these verses per se that the staff of Levi is in fact Aaron's staff which is in fact Moses' staff. However, it is called Aaron's staff and it is used for purpose of signs. It is very plausible that Moses took the staff designated for signs in Egypt and decided that that staff would be appropriate for a sign in the situation with Korach.


In the Hebrew OT, I see המטה H4294 for rod but it doesn't point to either Moses or Aaron

In the Septuagint, I see ραβδον 4464 but it defines it as staff of authority which could lead to Moses' rod

The posted responses above intrigue me also. I can state that regardless of which rod the Lord commanded Moses to use, it was indeed Moses' rod and not Aaron's that actually struck the rock.

Num 20:11

And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.

Of course, Moses could've used his own rod instead of Aaron's (if that was indeed God's intent) but I see no rebuke directly towards the use of the improper rod.

Num 20:12

And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

An indirect allusion to Moses taking the wrong rod could be made in the above-highlighted text, i.e. Moses didn't take Aaron's rod and instead used his own as he felt secure in its power.

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