Numbers 16:41

I. THE PEOPLE REMAIN UNCHANGED IN HEART. They had been terrified for the moment, and fled to what they thought a safe distance, but by the morrow all their audacity has returned. It would seem as if men soon become accustomed to even the most terrible visitations of God; and the more they see of his doings, the less able they are to understand them. There was a time when such destruction as they had gazed on would have taught them caution for more than a day, but now a day is quite sufficient to make them bolder than ever. The evidential value which Moses had pointed out in verses 28-30 is quite lost upon them. Perverse minds disregard the clearest evidence. It may be a good thing for some purposes to multiply evidences of Christianity, but if the whole earth were filled with books written on the subject, many would remain unconvinced. The conduct of these people, so quickly murmuring again, may seem scarcely credible as we read it, yet are they in reality worse than unbelievers now? If we also read of these things that happened to Israel of old, and are not in the least impressed by them, then what are we different in our folly and audacity? The lapse of more than three thousand years has not made God less jealous of his ordinances, less able and determined to punish those who slight them. Fearful things are spoken of those who crucify the Son of God afresh and put him to an open shame. Instead of marveling at Israel, we shall do well to see in it, as in a mirror, the perversity, blindness, and frivolity of the natural man everywhere. As Israel was, so are we, until and unless God puts within us a new and different life.

II. A STILL FURTHER RECOGNITION OF THE PRIESTLY OFFICE. One is not astonished to read that simultaneously with the gathering of the murmuring people, the glory of the Lord appeared again. Hitherto there has been some little interval, some time as it were for repentance, but now along with this high pitch of audacity, it is fitting that the revelation of the glory should be prompt, and prompt also the vindication of what God had but lately done. Once again he warns Moses and Aaron out of the way of death. And now what can Moses do, for his pleas are exhausted? The people have gone on sinning, until at last the ingenuity of his pitying heart has nothing left to say. In this extremity he turns where all must turn at last, name]y, to the atonement for sin which God has solemnly appointed. Probably in the first institution of the priestly office he did not comprehend all the power and blessing it could confer. He was now to know, and Israel with him, that atonement for sin, made through the appointed officer, had a most certain effect in destroying some, at least, of the consequences of sin. The atonement made under the law sets forth that more efficacious and searching atonement lying at the foundation of the gospel, but it was not, therefore, a mere form. It could not indeed cleanse the conscience or change the life, but it was effectual to keep back the plague that brought physical death. In the light of the honour which God here puts upon his priest, and the real effect produced by this offering for sin, how clearly we see the real effect that must come from the work of Jesus! If Aaron, the feeble, sinful type, could do so much, how much more we are bound to expect from Jesus, the sinless, perfect antitype!

III. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF AARON'S POSITION. He stood between the dead and the living. What a quickly destructive power sin has! The language indicates that Moses and Aaron were full of alacrity. Not a moment was lost in interposing the atoning service, but even so more than fourteen thousand of the people had already perished. The connection between sin and death is very close, and in such a visitation as this the closeness is made very clear. It may seem constantly contradicted, that in the day men eat of the forbidden fruit they shall surely die, but the contradiction is in appearance only. In the sinful act death is begun, and if God so chooses, its full power may be very quickly manifested. Thus when Aaron went in he found death had been before him, and he had to stand between the dead and the living. It was from the dead that the plague passed greedily on to the living, like the licking fire from the black ruins where it has done its work to the firings still unconsumed. But the moment Aaron enters, the atonement begins to work. The very fact that so many had perished, and so rapidly, glorifies the efficacy of his intervention. Sin is then at once in check. It was a noble position for the priest to occupy, and we should think of it as occupied by Jesus. He indeed stands between the dead and the living. As we gaze upon those wrecked and ruined ones, fast settled in despair, and beyond any succour that we can discern, Christ stands between us and them to give assurance that with him there is power to deliver us from such a fate. It is his great and glorious power to deliver us from death by giving to us a new and higher life, and giving it more abundantly, that mortality may be swallowed up of life (2 Corinthians 5:4). - Y.

On the morrow all the congregation... murmured.
I. A NEW REBELLION RAISED THE VERY NEXT DAY AGAINST MOSES AND AARON. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and wonder, O earth! Was there ever such an instance of the incurable corruption of sinners! (ver. 41). On the morrow the body of the people mutinied —

1. Though they were but newly terrified by the sight of the punishment of the rebels. Warnings slighted.

2. Though they were but newly saved from sharing in the same punishment, and the survivors were as brands plucked out of the burning, yet they fly in the face of Moses and Aaron, to whose intercession they owed their preservation.

II. GOD'S SPEEDY APPEARING AGAINST THE REBELS. When they were gathered against Moses and Aaron, perhaps with design to depose or murder them, they looked towards the tabernacle, as if their misgiving consciences expected some frowns from thence; and behold the glory of the Lord appeared (ver. 42) for the protection of His servants, and confusion of His and their accusers. Moses and Aaron thereupon came before the tabernacle, partly for their own safety; there they took sanctuary from the strife of tongues (Psalm 37:5; Psalm 31:20), and partly for advice, to know what was the mind of God upon this occasion (ver. 43). Justice hereupon declares, They deserve to be consumed in a moment (ver. 45). Why should they live another day who hate to be reformed, and whose rebellions are their daily practices? Let just vengeance take place and do its work, and the trouble with them will soon be over; only Moses and Aaron must first be secured.

III. THE INTERCESSION WHICH MOSES AND AARON MADE FOR THEM. Though they had as much reason, one would think, as Elias had, to make intercession against Israel (Romans 11:7), yet they forgive and forget the indignities offered them, and are the best friends their enemies have.

1. They both fell on their faces, humbly to intercede with God for mercy, knowing how great their provocation was. This they had done several times before upon the like occasion; and though the people had basely requited them for it, yet God having graciously accepted them, they still have recourse to the same method. This is praying always.

2. Moses perceiving that the plague was begun in the congregation of the rebels, i.e., that body of them which was gathered together against Moses, sends Aaron by an act of his priestly office to make atonement for them (ver. 46). And Aaron readily went, burnt incense between the living and the dead, not to purify the infected air, but to pacify an offended God, and so stayed the progress of the judgment (ver. 47).


1. God's justice was glorified in the death of some. Great execution the sword of the Lord did in a very little time. Though Aaron made all the haste he could, yet before he could reach his post of service there were fourteen thousand seven hundred men laid dead upon the spot (ver. 49). Note, those that quarrel with lesser judgments prepare greater for themselves; for when God judgeth He will overcome.

2. His mercy was glorified in the preservation of the rest. God showed them what He could do by His power, and what He might do in justice, but then showed them what He could do in His love and pity. He would preserve them a people to Himself for all this, in and by a Mediator. The cloud of Aaron's incense coming from his hand stayed the plague. Note, it is much for the glory of God's goodness that many a time, even in wrath, He remembers mercy; and even when judgments have been begun, prayer has put a stop to them, so ready is He to forgive, and so little pleasure doth He take in the death of sinners.

( Matthew Henry, D. D..)


1. Terrible disregard of Divine warnings.

2. Base ingratitude to Moses and Aaron.

3. Profane characterisation of the wicked as the people of God.


1. The manifestation of His glory.

2. The declaration of the desert of the rebels.


1. The kindness of Moses and Aaron. Their conduct reminds us of Him who prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

2. The courage of Aaron. He feared neither the excited people who were embittered against him, nor the pestilence which was smiting down the people by thousands, but "ran into the midst of the congregation," &c.

3. The zeal of Aaron. He was now an old man, yet he "ran into the midst," &c. An example for Christian ministers.

4. The success of Aaron. "The plague was stayed." How great is the power of prayer!


1. Here is an impressive display of Divine justice. Many slain.

2. Here is an encouraging manifestation of Divine mercy. Some spared.Conclusion: Learn —

1. The heinousness of sin.

2. The great value of a faithful ministry.

3. The readiness of God to forgive sin.

(W. Jones.)

Make an atonement for them.
I. THERE IS AN AWFUL CONTROVERSY BETWEEN A HOLY GOD AND A REBELLIOUS WORLD. Our sin resembles theirs in many aspects, and has the same aggravations.

1. As it directly strikes against the authority and the grace of God, whatever be the form it assumes.

2. As it is often committed in the face of frequent and awful warnings.

3. As it is heightened by the experience of God's preserving and upholding mercy.


1. That our only escape from threatened wrath is through the mediation and advocacy of our High Priest.

2. That the plan of salvation by faith is as efficacious in reality as it is simple in its mode of application.

3. That an immediate application to it is our only protection against certain ruin. "Go quickly."

(S. Thodey.)

I. AN AWFUL SPECTACLE EXHIBITED. When private prayer is a task, and the minor moralities of life begin to be disregarded, there are fearful symptoms of decay and declension. "The plague is begun."

II. THE SURPRISING REMEDY FOUND. "Take a censer," &c. Where is the physician who would have recommended this as a cure for the plague? Who would have thought that the appearance of a single priest amidst the dying and the dead should have stopped the progress of the pestilence? Yet the incense and the fire and the oblation accomplish that for Israel which all the wisdom of the Egyptians could never have achieved. Who does not, in like manner, rebel against God's appointed method of pardon? or question the mysterious virtue of Christ's atoning blood, and doubt the efficacy of faith, repentance, and prayer?


1. What infinite solemnity attaches to all the offices of religion! Death and life are involved. The two hundred and fifty men that offered incense perished: their spirit was bad. What if we bring strange fire! Aaron's offering saves life. If awful to preach, so also to hear.

2. How dreadful if the plague be in the heart, and we, unconscious of danger, neglect the remedy! "Examine yourselves."

3. What need ministers have for the prayers and sympathies of their people!

4. Rejoice in the absolute sufficiency of salvation applied by the Spirit.

(S. Thodey.)


1. Regardless of the plague.

2. Regardless of the people's enmity.



1. Let us tremble at the wrath of an offended God.

2. Let us rejoice in the intercession of our Great High Priest.

(J. D. Lane, M. A.)



1. Divine.

2. By the plague.


(2)Speedily so.

(3)Invariably so.


1. In itself, not apparently adapted.

2. Connected with pious intercession.

3. Intercession grounded on sacrifice.

4. Efficient.


(2)At once.Learn:

1. The extreme evil of sin.

2. The riches of the grace of God.

3. The immediate duty of the sinner — to call earnestly on the Lord.

(J. Burns, D. D.)


1. The sin of the Israelites was rebellion against God.

2. The terrible visitation.


1. A significant act.

(1)Aaron a type of the Lord Jesus.

(2)He stood between the dead and the living.

(3)Jesus has done more than Aaron.

2. The completeness of His atonement.


1. The faithful minister of God's Word dares not withhold the instruction to be derived from it concerning the terrible judgments which ungodly men bring on themselves by continuing in sin against a just and holy God.

2. If the judgment against sin is so terrible to contemplate, how much need have we to accept God's own way of deliverance!

(E. Auriol, M. A.)

He stood between the dead and the living.
The whole scene is typical of Christ; and Aaron, as he appears before us in each character, is a most magnificent picture of the Lord Jesus.

I. First, look at Aaron as the LOVER of the people. See in Aaron the lover of Israel; in Jesus the lover of His people. Aaron deserves to be very highly praised for his patriotic affection for a people who were the most rebellious that ever grieved the heart of a good man. You must remember that in this case he was the aggrieved party. Is not this the very picture of our Lord Jesus? Had not sin dishonoured Him? Was He not the Eternal God, and did not sin therefore conspire against Him as well as against the Eternal Father and the Holy Spirit? Was He not, I say, the one against whom the nations of the earth stood up and said, "Let us break His bands asunder, and cast His cords from us"? Yet He, our Jesus, laying aside all thought of avenging Himself, becomes the Saviour of His people. Well, you note again, that Aaron in thus coming forward as the deliverer and lover of his people, must have remembered that he was abhorred by this very people. They were seeking his blood; they were desiring to put him and Moses to death, and yet, all thoughtless of danger, he snatches up his censer and runs into their midst with a Divine enthusiasm in his heart. He might have stood back, and said, "No, they will slay me if I go into their ranks; furious as they are, they will charge this new death upon me and lay me low." But he never considers it. Into the midst of the crowd he boldly springs. Most blessed Jesus, Thou mightest not only think thus, but indeed Thou didst feel it to be true. Thou wast willing to die a martyr, that Thou mightest be made a sacrifice for those by whom Thy blood was spilt. You will see the love and kindness of Aaron if you look again; Aaron might have said, "But the Lord will surely destroy me also with the people; if I go where the shafts of death are flying they will reach me." He never thinks of it; he exposes his own person in the very forefront of the destroying one. Oh, Thou glorious High Priest of our profession, Thou mightest not only have feared this which Aaron might have dreaded, but Thou didst actually endure the plague of God; for when Thou didst come among the people to save them from Jehovah's wrath, Jehovah's wrath fell upon Thee. The sheep escaped, but by "His life and blood the Shepherd pays, a ransom for the flock." Oh, Thou lover of thy Church, immortal honours be unto Thee! Aaron deserves to be beloved by the tribes of Israel, because he stood in the gap and exposed himself for their sins; but Thou, most mighty Saviour, Thou shalt have eternal songs, because, forgetful of Thyself, Thou didst bleed and die, that man might be saved! I would again draw your attention to that other thought that Aaron as a lover of the people of Israel deserves much commendation, from the fact that it is expressly said, he ran into the host. That little fact of his running is highly significant, for it shows the greatness and swiftness of the Divine impulse of love that was within. Ah! and was it not so with Christ? Did He not baste to be our Saviour? Were not His delights with the sons of men? Did He not often say, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished"? His dying for us was not a thing which He dreaded. "With desire have I desired to eat this passover."

II. Now view Aaron as THE GREAT PROPITIATOR. Wrath had gone out from God against the people on account of their sin, and it is God's law that His wrath shall never stay unless a propitiation be offered. The incense which Aaron carried in his hand was the propitiation before God, from the fact that God saw in that perfume the type of that richer offering which our Great High Priest is this very day offering before the throne. Aaron as the propitiator is to be looked at first as bearing in his censer that which was necessary for the propitiation. He did not come empty-handed. Even though God's high priest, he must take the censer; he must fill it with the ordained incense, made with the ordained materials; and then he must light it with the sacred fire from off the altar, and with that alone. Behold, then, Christ Jesus as the propitiator for His people. He stands this day before God with His censer smoking up towards heaven. Behold the Great High Priest! See Him this day with His pierced hands, and head that once was crowned with thorns. Mark how the marvellous smoke of His merits goeth up for ever and ever before the eternal throne. 'Tis He, 'tis He alone, who puts away the sins of His people. His incense, as we know, consists first of all of His positive obedience to the Divine law. He kept His Father's commands; He did everything that man should have done; He kept to the full the whole law of God, and made it honourable. Then mixed with this is His blood — an equally rich and precious ingredient. The blood of His very heart — mixed together with His merits — these make up the incense — an incense incomparable — an incense surpassing all others. Besides that, it was not enough for Aaron to have the proper incense. Korah might have that too, and he might have the censer also. That would not suffice — he must be the ordained priest; for mark, two hundred and fifty men fell in doing the act which Aaron did. Aaron's act saved others; their act destroyed themselves. So Jesus, the propitiator, is to be looked upon as the ordained one — called of God as was Aaron. But let us note once more in considering Aaron as the great propitiator, that we must look upon him as being ready for his work. He was ready with his incense, and ran to the work at the moment the plague broke out. The people were ready to perish and he was ready to save. Jesus Christ stands ready to save thee now; there is no need of preparation; He hath slain the victim; He hath offered the sacrifice; He hath filled the censer; He hath put to it the glowing coals. His breastplate is on His breast; His mitre is on His head; He is ready to save thee now. Trust Him, and thou shalt not find need for delay,

III. Now view Aaron as THE INTERPOSER. Let me explain what I mean. As the old Westminster Annotations say upon this passage, "The plague was moving among the people as the fire moveth along a field of corn." There it came; it began in the extremity; the faces of men grew pale, and swiftly on, on it came, and in vast heaps they fell, till some fourteen thousand had been destroyed, Aaron wisely puts himself just in the pathway of the plague. It came on, cutting down all before it, and there stood Aaron the interposer with arms outstretched and censer swinging towards heaven, interposing himself between the darts of death and the people. Just so was it with Christ. Wrath had gone out against us. The law was about to smite us; the whole human race must be destroyed. Christ stands in the forefront of the battle. "The stripes must fall on Me!" He cries; "the arrows shall find a target in My breast. On me, Jehovah, let Thy vengeance fall." And He receives that vengeance, and afterwards upspringing from the grave He waves the censer full of the merit of His blood, and bids this wrath and fury stand back.

IV. Now view Aaron as THE SAVIOUR. It was Aaron, Aaron's censer, that saved the lives of that great multitude. If he had not prayed the plague had not stayed, and the Lord would have consumed the whole company in a moment. As it was, you perceive there were some fourteen thousand and seven hundred that died before the Lord. The plague had begun its dreadful work, and only Aaron could stay it. And now I want you to notice with regard to Aaron, that Aaron, and especially the Lord Jesus, must be looked upon as a gracious Saviour. It was nothing but love that moved Aaron to wave his censer. The people could not demand it of him. Had they not brought a false accusation against him? And yet he saves them. It must have been love and nothing but love. Say, was there anything in the voices of that infuriated multitude which could have moved Aaron to stay the plague from before them? Nothing! nothing in their character! nothing in their looks! nothing in their treatment of God's High Priest! and yet he graciously stands in the breach, and saves them from the devouring judgment of God! If Christ hath saved us He is a gracious Saviour indeed. And then, again, Aaron was an unaided saviour. He stands alone, alone, alone! and herein was he a great type of Christ who could say, "I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with Me." Do not think, then, that when Christ prevails with God, it is because of any of your prayers, or tears, or good works. He never puts your tears and prayers into His censer. They would mar the incense. There is nothing but His own prayers, and His own tears, and His own merits there. "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Nor doth He need a helper; "He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." "He is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by Him." He was, then, you will perceive, a gracious Saviour, and an unaided one; and, once more, Aaron as a saviour was all-sufficient. Trust thou thy soul with Christ, and thy sins are at once forgiven, at once blotted out.

V. Aaron as THE DIVIDER — the picture of Christ. Aaron the anointed one stands here; on that side is death, on this side life; the boundary between life and death is that one man. Where his incense smokes the air is purified, where it smokes not the plague reigns with unmitigated fury. There are two sorts of people here this morning, and these are the living and the dead, the pardoned, the unpardoned, the saved, and the lost. A man in Christ is a Christian; a man out of Christ is dead in trespasses and sins. "He that believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ is saved, he that believeth not is lost." Christ is the only divider between His people and the world. On which side, then, art thou to-day?

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. To say that this evil had ITS ORIGIN in sin, would be to say nothing. All evil proceeds from sin : there is not a pang or sorrow in the universe which has not this as its source. But then suffering owes its existence to sin in various ways. Sometimes it is sent in mercy to prevent sin; thus Paul had a thorn in the flesh "lest he should be exalted." At other times it comes to discover sin and subdue it in the Christian's heart. "Before I was afflicted," says David, "I went astray, but now have I kept Thy word." More frequently, however, its design is to answer the purposes of God's moral government; to punish sin: to manifest the abhorrence in which the great Ruler of the universe holds it, and thus to deter His creatures from the commission of it. And such was its object here. The Israelites had sinned against the Lord; this plague was the punishment of their sin.

1. This offence involved in it an overlooking of God's providence; at all events, a refusing to acknowledge it. God will not allow us to say for ever, "Accident brought this evil on me, chance this disease, a casualty this bereavement, the injustice or treachery of my fellow-man this loss and poverty." Either by His Spirit, or by His providence, or by both, God will drive this atheism out of us. He will force us to say, "It is the Lord. He is in this place, and I knew it not. Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth."

2. The murmuring of these sinners included in it also a daring censure of God's ways. Whatever God does bears the impress of God. In some way or other it manifests His perfections, and consequently is calculated to bring honour to His name. Now a mind in a right state praises Him for every work of His hands; and it does so on account of the traces of His glory it either discovers in that work, or, though hidden, believes to be there. Indeed, this is God's great design in all His doings, to draw forth praise from His creatures by revealing to them His excellencies, and thus to surround Himself with a delighted and adoring universe. It follows, then, that to censure any of God's ways is, as far as in us lies, to frustrate the object at which God aims in these ways; to rob Him of His honour, and worse than this — to asperse His character and vindicate His enemies. And of this offence these Israelites were guilty.

3. There was yet a third evil comprehended in the murmuring of these Israelites; and this was a contempt of God's warnings. Millions of our race have already perished; the destroying angel is hastening to cut down millions more. The world some of us deem so fair and happy is nothing better than the camp of Israel — a scene of mercy, it is true, but yet a scene of misery, terror, and death. How anxious, then, should we be to look around for a deliverer! Blessed be God, there is One near. This history speaks of Him.


1. It was effected by one who might have been supposed least likely to interfere for such a purpose. Can we fail to discover here the great High Priest of God's guilty church, the despised and rejected Jesus? Aaron was a type of Him.

2. The cessation of this plague was attended with a display of the most self-denying and ardent love.

3. The cessation of this plague was brought about by means that seemed altogether inadequate, that appeared, in fact, to have no connection at all with the end proposed.

(C. Bradley, M. A.)

1. The origin of the judgment here spoken of. Men quickly forget the Almighty.

2. The means adopted to arrest its devastating progress. Mediation.

3. The feelings of gratitude which the removal of the plague must have inspired.

(W. C. Le Breton, M. A.)

In this, as in all other similar occasions, we perceive the presence of the Eternal Son, preparing the way for that perfect scheme of redemption which was to be unfolded in the fulness of time. Jesus in truth stood between the dead and the living; for Aaron was His delegate and servant: and I would apply the particulars of the present transaction to our own case and circumstances. The plague, then, to which we may now advert is the plague of sin, and the threatened death is the death of the soul. Truly the plague has begun. It began in paradise, and has been raging ever since; and as soon as it broke out, the Lord appeared to intercede and to atone. We can entertain no doubt of the existence of the evil; we cannot look far into the world, not far into the Christian world, without beholding lamentable proof of its ravages: intemperance, profligacy, and even blasphemy, meet us in every quarter; the moral pestilence is positively raging around and within the Christian camp. Nor need we look abroad for proof of this awful fact; we have each of us an evidence in our own bosom. But it was not merely the existence of the plague itself which must have wrought upon the Israelites, and have made them to accept the proffered remedy; it was also that so many lay dead before them; such multitudes of their neighbours and friends had been swept away before their eyes. And have not we, on this ground, many powerful inducements also? Have there not been presented before us in the page of history, yea, in daily report, awful numbers of the human race, to all appearance dying of the plague, dying in their trespasses and sins? Again, as the Israelites saw many destroyed, so did they likewise see many recovered and saved; and that would encourage them to lay hold of the means ordained. We also have similar encouragements under the gospel. It is not altogether a scene of desolation, of heedlessness and ruin; there have been many splendid trophies of Divine grace, many careless sinners awakened and rescued from the grave of destruction.

(J. Slade, M. A.)

Every minister of Jesus Christ, when he stands in the pulpit, stands in the same responsible relation as Aaron did. I stand and look at the living on one side, and on the other I see the dead. The Bible, up and down, declares that an unforgiven soul is dead in trespasses and in sins. What killed the soul? The plague. What kind of a plague — the Asiatic plague? No; the plague of sin. The Asiatic plague was epidemic. It struck one, it struck a great many; and this plague of sin is epidemic. It has touched all nations. It goes from heart to heart, and from house to house; and we are more apt to copy the defects than we are the virtues of character. The whole race is struck through with an awful sickness. Explorers have gone forth, by ship, and reindeer sledge, and on foot, and they have discovered new tribes and villages; but they have never yet discovered a sinless population. On every brow the mark of the plague — in every vein the fever. On both sides of the equator, in all zones, from arctic to antarctic, the plague. Yes, it is contagious. We catch it from our parents. Our children catch it from us. Instead of fourteen thousand seven hundred, there are more than one thousand millions of the dead. As I look off upon the spiritually dead, I see that the scene is loathsome. Now, sometimes you have seen a body after decease more beautiful than in life. The old man looked young again. But when a man perished with the Asiatic plague he became repulsive. There was something about the brow, about the neck, about the lip, about the eye, that was repulsive. And when a man is dead in sin he is repulsive to God. We are eaten of that abominable thing which God hates, and unless we are resuscitated from that condition, we must go out of His sight. But I remark again, that I look off upon the slain of this plague, and I see the scene is one of awful destruction. Gout attacks the foot, ophthalmia the eye, neuralgia the nerves; and there are diseases which take only, as it were, the outposts of the physical castle; but the Asiatic plague demolishes the whole fortress. And so with this plague of sin. It enwraps the whole soul, It is complete destruction — altogether undone, altogether gone astray, altogether dead. When I look upon those who are slain with this plague, I see that they are beyond any human resurrection. Medical colleges have prescribed for this Asiatic plague, but have never yet cured a case. And so I have to tell you that no earthly resurrection can bring up a soul after it is dead in sin. You may galvanise it, and make it move around very strangely; but galvanism and life are infinitely apart. None but the omnipotent God can resurrect it. I go further and say, that every minister of the gospel, when he stands up to preach, stands between the living and the dead of the great future. Two worlds, one on either side of us: the one luminous, the other dark; the one a princely and luxuriant residence, the other an incarceration. Standing between the living who have entered upon their eternal state, and the dead who shall tarry in their eternal decease, I am this moment. Oh, the living, the living, I think of them to-night. Your Christian dead have not turned into thin clouds and floated off into the immensities. Living, bounding, acting, they are waiting for you. Living! Never to die.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

Such was our High Priest who perceived that, on account of man's transgression, wrath was gone forth from the presence of the Lord, and that the plague was begun among the people. And He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor. Therefore He arrayed Himself in the holy garments of glory and beauty; He put on a breastplate of righteousness, and a robe of inviolable sanctity, and He was clad, over all, with zeal as a cloak. He was anointed with the oil of gladness, with the Holy Ghost, and with power; and on His head was a crown of salvation and glory. Thus adorned and fitted for the work, He put on, for incense, the merits of His sufferings. He ran into the midst of God's people as a Mediator, interposing Himself between the parties at variance, in order to reconcile them. He met the burning wrath, and turned it aside from all believers. And so the plague is stayed. A stop is put to the progress of everlasting destruction. "There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." And can anything, then, prevent our accepting this atonement, and thankfully receiving the benefits of this intercession? Nothing can, but an utter ignorance of our sin, and of our danger. Could a dying Israelite have been prevailed upon, think you, to reject the atonement and intercession of Aaron? No, surely. Only see how hope revives in their countenances, and joy sparkles in their eyes, all turned and fixed upon him in the execution of his priestly office. And why? Because they were sensible of their wretched and perilous estate. They needed not to be told that they were expiring by the pestilence. Oh, why are not we so? Why do we hear of the atonement and intercession of the Holy Jesus with so much cold indifference? Why, but because we see not, we know not, we feel not the want of them. And yet, what is there, within us, or without us, that doth not teach and show it us? To tell you that the world is full of sorrow, is no news; to tell you that the world is full of sin, is, I presume, no news. And from what would you desire to be delivered, if not from sin and sorrow? What, in point of wretchedness, was the camp of Israel with the pestilence in the midst of it, if compared to such a world as this? Go, thou who art tempted to reject, or to neglect the satisfaction of Christ, go to the bed of sickness, ask him who lies racked with pain, and trembling at the thoughts of the wrath to come, what his opinion is concerning the doctrine of atonement; and observe how the name of a Saviour and Intercessor puts comfort and gladness into his affrighted soul, at a time when the treasures and the crowns of eastern kings would be utterly contemned, as equally vain, worthless, and unprofitable, with the dust of the earth.

(Bp. Horne.).

Write Aaron's name upon the rod of Levi.

1. An end hereby put to murmuring. By an incontrovertible sign they knew who was the true priest.

2. A preventative furnished against future rebellion. Miracles apt to be forgotten; of this the evidence was to be preserved. Kept for a token.

II. SUGGESTIVE TO CHRISTIANS. Every man has some rod on which he leans. The Christian's is faith. Like Aaron's rod, faith flourishes —

1. Most in the sanctuary. There are strengthening influences, and a Divine power. It will become a barren stock elsewhere.

2. Under circumstances in which other rods cannot live. The almond flourishes even before the winter is fully past. Faith budding in adversity.

3. Produces fruit and flowers on the bare stock of adversity.

4. Bears fruit speedily when God causes His blessing to rest upon it. "Believe and be saved."

5. Stirs the Christian up to vigilance. Almond-tree a symbol of watchfulness.


1. For it is perpetual. Aaron's rod laid up as a lasting remembrance.

2. It bore fruit on a barren stock. Jesus, a root out of a dry ground.

3. It was distinguished among the sceptres of the princes. Christ's kingdom and sceptre rule over all. He is a plant of renown.

4. It was the object of special favour. So in Jesus, He "was well pleased." He was "elect and precious."


1. His home the house of God.

2. Presents himself constantly before the testimony.

3. In himself dry and barren.

4. Relies upon God for fruitfulness.

5. Produces by Divine help not flowers only, but fruit also.

6. As a dry and lifeless stock he receives quickening power from God; so with his flowers and fruit he presents himself before God, and offers all his works to Him.Learn —

1. The wisdom of God in choice of methods.

2. To seek a strong and living and practical faith.

3. To rejoice in and rely upon the perpetual high priesthood of Christ.

4. To endeavour, like the almond-tree, to bring forth fruit early.

(J. C. Gray.)

This is our subject: the miraculous conversion of Aaron's rod into a living, blossoming, and fruit-bearing plant. It must have been a most convincing prodigy for the purpose it was designed to answer, for the people no sooner saw it than they cried out in remorse for their wavering allegiance, "Behold, we die

! we perish! we all perish!" But beyond the age wherein the marvel occurred, this putting vegetable life into that dry staff has frequently been borrowed and used for other objects. Thus Achilles, in classic poetry, when enraged against Agamemnon, is made by Homer to refer to this miracle: —

"But hearken! I shall swear a solemn oath

By this same sceptre, 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 axe lopt off its foliage green

And stript its bark, shall never grow again :-

By this I swear!"

And amongst Latin literature you will, some of you, remember that a certain king confirms a covenant with AEneas by a similar oath.

I. We begin by reminding you that AMONG THE GREATEST OF OUR BLESSINGS IN THIS WORLD IS OUR STRICT OBLIGATION TO DO THE DIVINE WILL AND TO KEEP THE DIVINE LAW. It is far more worth our while to sing of God's statutes than it is to sing of God's promises. Where should we be in a country without human authority, and a human authority founded on a reverence for the Divine? Very truly does Bushnell say that, "without law, man does not live, he only grazes." If he had no government he would never discern any reason for existence, and would soon not care to exist. How different is the world of Voltaire from the world of Milton I The one finds nothing but this clay world and its material beauties, flashes into a shallow brilliancy of speech, and, weaving a song of surfaces, empties himself into a book of all that he has felt or seen. But the other, at the back of all and through all visible things, beholds a spirit and a Divinity. Now is there not a very beautiful picture of the comeliness and the beneficence of law in the old miracle that was wrought upon the rod of Aaron? That staff, as we have put it to you, was selected as the sign of authority. This was a declaration, first, that no law was perfect that did not display life and beauty and fertility; and a declaration, secondly, that by God's choice that perfect law dwelt in the high priest. But apart from the imagery as a message to the children of Israel, I cling to that blooming staff as the very best type I can find anywhere of what God's rule is amongst us and in His Church. I find myself taught by this early prodigy on Aaron's staff that God's dominion is the dominion of the almond-branch. It is a rod; alas! for us, if there were no rod. But it is a rod displaying all the three several pledges and gradations of life; and thus — oh! beautiful coincidence, if it be nothing more — God turns His law towards the children of men into what the forbidden tree so falsely appeared to the first transgressor — "pleasant to the eye, and good for food." Of course I know that the staff or the sceptre is the symbol of authority, because a staff is that with which one person smites another. The ultimate significance of a rod is a blow. But is it nothing to be taught by God's picture-alphabet of the Old Testament that He smites only with buds, and with flowers, and with fruit? This seems to change, even to any child's apprehension, the whole character of the sovereignty under which we bow in the modern camp of the Church. You tremble as you read the chapter of hard duties. Turn the leaf, and you will come upon the chapter of precious promises. There is not a verse in the Bible that is not in flower with some comfort; aye, though it be a verse that smites you with a difficult commandment. You are never to tell a man to do a single thing in religion without telling him that God will help him to do it. You are never to command a sacrifice from me for Christ's sake without comforting me with the assurance that "God is able to give me much more than this." If you have a strong, rough, hard stick of responsibility, you must show it to me bursting out all over with the rich petals and the hanging clusters of the sovereignty of Divine grace. Aye, for I want you to mark well that here was a miracle within a miracle. The natural almond-branch never has upon it at one time buds, blossoms, and fruit. But I seem to be taught by this accumulation of successive life all at once on one stem that there is no element of mercy wanting in the code by which I am to be managed. But remember that if we deserve nothing but the rod, and yet if God never uses the rod save with the buds, the blossoms, and the fruit, "He may well record it against us if either we despise the chastening of the Lord, or faint when we are rebuked of Him."

II. BUT NOW THE REAL AND ONLY PROPER COMMENTARY ON THE FACTS OF THE PENTATEUCH WILL BE FOUND IN THE DOCTRINES OF THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. Do you believe that all those lives would have been lost, and all that commotion would have been made about the prerogative of Aaron's priesthood, but for that other Priest on whom the whole world was to rely — the Priest for ever — "made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life"? It is not by one Scripture, it is by scores, that I find myself pointed, through that staff, to the real government of this world in the rod out of the stem of Jesse. "He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground, without form or comeliness." And yet, all the while, He was the "rod out of the stem of Jesse." And when I read, in the Book of Numbers, how the Hebrews rose up against Aaron and put him to shame, I can only take it for a foreshadowing of another rebellion, when they insulted another Sceptre, who was "despised and rejected of men." We preach to you Christ, a stumbling-block to the Jews. And scarcely can you wonder that so long as the rod was only the root out of a dry ground, the Son of the carpenter and the Friend of sinners, there was " no beauty in Him that they should desire Him." But that is not the staff with which, this day, God governs His Church. No, no! He hath declared that lowly peasant preacher to be "the Son of God with power, in that He hath raised Him from the dead." Ah, that night in which they concealed Aaron's rod in the tabernacle of witness, it was never less living, never less blossoming, than then. But it was not left in darkness, neither did it see corruption. And on the appointed morning men found it, marked by the choice of the Omnipotent with the buds, the blossoms, and the fruit. In like manner the coldest, darkest, least living period in Immanuel's career was when they hid Him, among all the other millions of the dead, in the tomb cut out of the rock in the garden of Joseph. "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept." He was raised up "a plant of renown." And from that glorious Easter morning the "rod out of the stem of Jesse" has been "the tree whose leaves are for the healing of the nations," and "filling the face of the world with fruit." Men can be governed by a Mediator and yet not perish. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." That is a rod, but "if any man sin we have an Advocate with the Father," that is, "Aaron's rod that budded" — the rod of the Priest. Reuben, Gad, and all the rest have rods. Christianity is not alone in the sternness of its government or the severity of its sanctions. But it is alone in telling me how I can receive remission of sins that are past, and how I can obtain the strongest of motives for a life of obedience in the time to come.

(H. Christopherson.)


1. The atonement and death of our Lord Jesus were matters of Divine appointment. The whole work of our salvation originated with God.

2. But more than this — which is the essential truth here enshrined — we see here that God often manifests Himself in unexpected forms of beauty and of grace. The dry rod blossomed and bare fruit. The powers of Divine salvation were enshrined in the person of the Carpenter of Nazareth. There was life for a dead world in the Cross and in the grave of the dead Christ.


1. Christian life begins with God.

2. The Christian life manifests itself in unfavourable conditions. It is in human souls a power of active benevolence, or it is nothing at all. It takes hold of human misery with a healing hand, and it changes it into blessing. Where sin abounded there grace does much more abound.

3. There is beauty associated with the developments of Christian life and character. There is nothing half so winning as Christian grace.


1. There is a Divine designation of men to the highest service of the Church.

2. But what is the qualification of men thus sent? Evidently the possession of Divine life, the gift which is to be imparted to those needing it. To be a Christian teacher a man must be a Christian and must know the things of Christ.

3. How, then, are we to judge a man's Divine call and authority? Only and solely by the blossoms and fruit — by the spiritual results of his ministry.


1. The world has not known its best benefactors. It has always had a scornful word for the saintly and the true-hearted. It has always risen up in rebellion against the anointed of the Lord.

2. Here is a word of encouragement to all weak and mistrustful and diffident and self-emptied souls. "I am but a dry rod," says the old labourer in the Master's vineyard, and the holy matron whose life has been careful and troubled about many things, but who has ever been anxious to honour and serve her dear Lord in lowliest ways and household duties. "I am but a dry rod," says the saint, waiting dismission to rest, who has not done what he would or been as useful as he desired and hoped and prayed to be. "I am but a dry rod," says one whose strength has been weakened by the way, and whose unfinished purposes lie sadly enough at his feet, fallen out of hands which could not longer hold them or fashion them into completeness. "We are but dry rods," say many earnest, anxious, longing souls who hardly dare to trust for the future, because so often when they would do good evil is present with them. We are not saved by trust in our own righteousness or by satisfaction with our own goodness and deeds. But God's grace is all-sufficient, and He can work miracles of beauty and fruitfulness where human might is feeblest, and self mistrust is greatest, and humility of spirit is deepest.

(W. H. Davison, D. D.)



1. In order that they may regard them with becoming respect.

2. In order that they may take heed to their message.

III. THE VITALITY OF SIN IS OF DREADFUL TENACITY. "Many men's lips," says Trapp, "like rusty hinges, for want of the oil of grace and gladness, move not without murmuring and complaining." It is a thing of extreme difficulty to eradicate any evil disposition from the human heart. "For such is the habitual hardness of men's hearts, as neither ministry, nor misery, nor miracle, nor mercy can possibly mollify. Nothing can do it but an extraordinary touch from the hand of Heaven."


(W. Jones.)

y: —


1. Life,

2. Beauty.

3. Fruitfulness.

II. THE ORIGIN OF THE TRUE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY. God's creation, and gift to the Church.


(W. Jones.)

The rod in many graphic tints shows Jesus. The very name is caught by raptured prophets (Isaiah 11:1; Zechariah 6:12, 13). Thus faith gleans lessons from the very title — Rod. But the grand purport of the type is to reject all rivals. It sets Aaron alone upon the priestly seat. The parallel proclaims, that similarly Jesus is our only Priest. God calls, anoints, appoints, accepts, and ever hears Him; but Him alone. In His hands only do these functions live. Next, the constant luxuriance has a clear voice. In nature's field, buds, blossoms, fruit, soon wither. Not so this rod. Its verdure was for ever green; its fruit was ever ripe. Beside the ark it was reserved in never-fading beauty. Here is the ever-blooming Priesthood of our Lord (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:24). Mark, moreover, that types of Jesus often comprehend the Church. It is so with these rods. The twelve at first seem all alike. They are all sapless twigs. But suddenly one puts forth loveliness; while the others still remain worthless and withered. Here is a picture of God's dealings with a sin-slain race. Since Adam's fall, all are born lifeless branches of a withered stock. When any child of man arises from the death of sin, and blooms in grace, God has arisen with Divine almightiness. Believer, the budded rod gives another warning. It is a picture of luxuriance. Turn from it and look inward. Is your soul thus richly fertile? Instead of fruit, you often yield the thorn (John 15:8). Whence is the fault? (John 15:4) Perhaps your neglectful soul departs from Christ. Meditate in God's law day and night; (Psalm 1:3). But if the budded rod rebukes the scanty fruit in the new-born soul, what is its voice to unregenerate worldlings? (Hebrews 6:8.)

(Dean Law.)

Buds are evidence of life. A nominal Christian is like a dead trunk, and he cannot bud unless the sap of Divine grace courses through him. Spiritual life is an attribute of the converted Christian. The spiritual life of a being is his presiding sentiment or disposition — the chief inspiration of his soul — that which gives motion and character to his mental and moral being.

I. LIFE IS A RESISTLESS FORCE. The smallest blade of grass that raises its tiny head into light, or the feeblest insect that sports in the sunbeam, displays a force superior to that which governs the ocean or controls the stars. Man stands erect, the tree rises, and the bird soars, because of life.

II. LIFE IS AN APPROPRIATING FORCE. Vegetable and animal existences have a power of appropriating to themselves all surrounding elements conducive to their well-being, just as the life of the plant converts the various gases around it into nutriment to promote its strength and development. Wherever there is true religion, there is a power to render all external circumstances subservient to its own strength and growth; all things work together for its good.

III. LIFE IS A PROPAGATING FORCE. It has "the seed in itself." Forests start from acorns, and boundless harvests from the solitary grain. It is said that the grateful Israelites, anxious to carry away a bud, a blossom, or almond as a memento of the occasion, the flowers and fruit on the rod were repeatedly and miraculously renewed for that purpose. Be that as it may, wherever there is religious life it will spread; it scatters broadcast the incorruptible seed which liveth and abideth for ever.

IV. LIFE IS A BEAUTIFYING FORCE. There are two kinds of beauty — the sensational and the moral. Nature in her ten thousand forms of loveliness, and art in her exquisite expressions of taste, are ministries to the former, whilst spiritual truth, moral goodness, and the holiness of God address the latter. The one is the poetry of the eye and ear ; the other, of the soul. The beauty that appeals to the religious nature of man is the beauty of holiness — the beauty of the Lord — the glory of God in His goodness.

V. LIFE IS A FRUCTIFYING FORCE. The true Christian not only lives and unfolds a noble disposition, but is really useful. St. Paul speaks of "the fruit of the Spirit" — righteousness, goodness, truth. The first, as opposed to all injustice and dishonesty; the second, as opposed to the ten thousand forms of selfishness; the third, as opposed to all that is erroneous and false in the doctrines and theories of men.

(G. L. Saywell.)

Here are three miracles in one: —

1. That a dry rod — made of the almond tree — should bring forth buds in a moment.

2. That those buds should presently become blossoms anal flowers.

3. That these should immediately become ripe fruit, and that all at once, or at least in a little space.Nature makes no such leaps. All this was supernatural to these ends.

1. For a testimony of God's calling Aaron to the priesthood.

2. For a type of Christ, the Branch (Isaiah 11:1).

3. For a figure of the fruitfulness of a gospel ministry.

4. For a lively representation of a glorious resurrection.

(C. Ness.)

A wonderful work of God, which sundry ways may profit us.

1. As first to consider that if the power of God can do this in a dry stick, cannot He make the barren woman to bare, and be a joyful mother of children? Can He not do whatsoever He will do? By this power the sea is dried, the rock gives water, the earth cleaveth under the feet of men, fire descends whose nature is to ascend, raiseth the dead, and calleth things that are not as if they were. In a word, He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, &c.

2. This rod is a notable type of Christ, His person and office. Of His person, in that He was born of the Virgin Mary, who, though He descended of the royal blood, yet was now poor and mean, as that royal race was brought exceeding low, nothing remaining but as it were a root only. Now the said Virgin flourisheth again as Aaron's rod did, and beareth such fruit as never woman bear. Of this speaks Isaiah the prophet, when he saith, "There shall come a rod forth of the stock of Jesse, and a graft shall grow out of his roots." Of His office both priestly and kingly. His priestly office is figured in that being offered upon the cross He was as Aaron's dried rod, or as the Psalm saith, "dried up like a potsherd." But when He rose again He became like Aaron's budding and fruit-bearing rod, bringing forth to man, believing on Him, remission of sins, righteousness, and eternal life. His kingly office, in that He governeth His Church with a rod or sceptre of righteousness, as it is in the Psalm: "The sceptre of Thy kingdom is a right sceptre." Which rod and sceptre is the preaching of the gospel, &c.

3. Again, it was a resemblance of true ministers, and of all faithful men and women, for none of all these ought to be dry and withered sticks, but bear and bring forth buds and fruit according to their places.

4. It is a shadow also of our resurrection by which we should grow green again, and flourish with a new and an eternal glory, having like dead seed lain in the ground, and we shall bring forth ripe almonds, that is, the praise of God's incomprehensible goodness to us for ever and ever.

5. It resembleth our reformation and amendment of life, for when our heart feeleth what is amiss, this is as the bud; when it resolveth of a change and a future amendment, this is the blossom; and when it performeth the same by a new reformed life indeed, this is as the ripe almonds of Aaron's rod.(Bp. Babington.)

What matchless wisdom shines in this arrangement! How completely is the matter taken out of man's hands and placed where alone it ought to be, namely, in the hands of the living God! It was not to be a man appointing himself, or a man appointing his fellow, but God appointing the man of His own selection. In a word, the question was to be definitively settled by God Himself, so that all murmurings might be silenced for ever, and no one be able again to charge God's high priest with taking too much upon him. The human will had nothing whatever to do with this solemn matter. The twelve rods, all in a like condition, were laid up before the Lord ; man retired and left God to act. There was no room, no opportunity, because there was no occasion for human management. In the profound retirement of the sanctuary, far away from all man's thinkings, was the grand question of priesthood settled by Divine decision; and, being thus settled, it could never again be raised.

(C. H. Mackintosh.)

Striking and beautiful figure of Him who was "declared to be the Son of God with power by resurrection from the dead!" The twelve rods were all alike lifeless; but God, the living God, entered the scene, and, by that power peculiar to Himself, infused life into Aaron's rod, and brought it forth to view, bearing upon it the fragrant fruits of resurrection. Who could gainsay this? The rationalist may sneer at it, and raise a thousand questions. Faith gazes on that fruit-bearing rod, and sees in it a lovely figure of the new creation in the which all things are of God. Infidelity may argue on the ground of the apparent impossibility of a dry stick budding, blossoming, and bearing fruit in the course of one night. But to whelm does it appear impossible? To the infidel, the rationalist, the sceptic. And why? Because he always shuts out God. Let us remember this. Infidelity invariably shuts out God. God can do as He pleases. The One who called worlds into existence could make a rod to bud, blossom, and bear fruit in a moment. Bring God in, and all is simple and plain as possible. Leave God out, and all is plunged in hopeless confusion.

(C. H. Mackintosh.)

Ponder the difference between the rod of Moses and the rod of Aaron. We have seen the former doing its characteristic work in other days and amid other scenes. We have seen the land of Egypt trembling beneath the heavy strokes of that rod. Plague after plague fell upon that devoted scene in answer to that outstretched rod. We have seen the waters of the sea divided in answer to that rod. In short, the rod of Moses was a rod of power, a rod of authority. But it could not avail to hush the murmurings of the children of Israel, nor yet to bring the people through the desert. Grace alone could do that; and we have the expression of pure grace — free, sovereign grace — in the budding of Aaron's rod. Nothing can be more forcible, nothing more lovely. That dry, dead stick was the apt figure of Israel's condition, and indeed of the condition of every one of us by nature. There was no sap, no life, no power. One might well say, "What good can ever come of it?" None whatever, had not grace come in and displayed its quickening power. So was it with Israel, in the wilderness; and so is it with us now. How were they to be led along from day to day? How were they to be sustained in all their weakness and need? How were they to be borne with in all their sin and folly? The answer is found in Aaron's budding rod. If the dry, dead stick was the expression of nature's barren and worthless condition, the buds, blossoms, and fruit set forth that living and life-giving grace and power of God on which was based the priestly ministry that alone could bear the congregation through the wilderness. Grace alone could answer the ten thousand necessities of the militant host. Power could not suffice. Authority could not avail. Priesthood alone could supply what was needed; and this priesthood was instituted on the foundation of that efficacious grace which could bring fruit out of a dry rod. Thus it was as to priesthood of old; and thus it is as to ministry now. All ministry in the Church of God is the fruit of Divine grace — the gift of Christ, the Church's Head.

(C. H. Mackintosh.).

Numbers 16:41 NIV
Numbers 16:41 NLT
Numbers 16:41 ESV
Numbers 16:41 NASB
Numbers 16:41 KJV

Numbers 16:41 Bible Apps
Numbers 16:41 Parallel
Numbers 16:41 Biblia Paralela
Numbers 16:41 Chinese Bible
Numbers 16:41 French Bible
Numbers 16:41 German Bible

Numbers 16:41 Commentaries

Bible Hub
Numbers 16:40
Top of Page
Top of Page