After Korah and the other Reubenites were swallowed by the earth, there was still a pending question on who should be in charge of the priesthood. Earlier, Korah’s grumbling with Moses arose because he thought any other person from the community can serve as priest rather than someone who was a seed of Aaron.
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God’s Test to the Israelites
So God presented a test to the Israelites, assuring them that His sovereign choice is final and lasting. In Numbers chapter 17, He asks Moses to tell all the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel to present their staffs with their names written on them. Aaron’s name was written representing the Levi tribe.
All the leaders gathered their rods and Moses placed them at the Tent of Meeting in front of the Lord. The staff that produced buds would represent the chosen person with whom the priesthood was to come. This way everyone would be satisfied and stop the grumbling against Moses.
The Results of the Test
After everyone complied, Moses left the staffs overnight in the tent. The next day, when he looked at them, Aaron’s staff had not only produced buds, but it had blossoms and ripe almonds. Moses took all the staff out and every leader from every tribe took his. With no doubt, everyone witnessed that it was God’s will that Aaron and his descendants occupy the priesthood.
In Numbers chapter 17, God instructed Moses to put back Aaron’s staff to remind all the children of Israel who would be rebellious on the priesthood lineage. It would be a reminder that any person who grumbles for the position is not only rebellious to Moses and Aaron, but also to Jehovah God who had delivered them from hard bondage, gave them quail and manna while in the wilderness, and water to drink.
Any person who would show such a rebellious spirit represents a temperament of ungratefulness. It was clear that those who would even attempt to come near the tabernacle other than Aaron would die.
Numbers 17 (King James Version)
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
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.
3 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.
4 And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you.
5 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.
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.
7 And Moses laid up the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness.
8 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.
9 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.
10 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.
11 And Moses did so: as the LORD commanded him, so did he.
12 And the children of Israel spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish.
13 Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the LORD shall die: shall we be consumed with dying?