Numbers 16:1-18:32; 1 Samuel 11:14-12:22; Acts 7:44-53
Moses and the Children of Israel kept Aaron’s staff in the ark as a testimony of God’s choice of the house of Aaron. According to Jewish legend, though, “The same staff was held in the hand of every king until the Temple was destroyed, and then it was hidden away. That same staff also is destined to be held in the hand of King Messiah.” (Numbers Rabbah 18:23)
The Bible never mentions any of the kings of Judah wielding the staff of Aaron. For the kings to wield the priestly staff would seem to blur the distinctive roles of the monarchy and the priesthood. However, the staff of Aaron symbolized God’s choice of a man for office.
One can imagine the kings of Israel displaying Aaron’s staff as part of their effort to prove their divine appointment to the throne. Lest there be any grumblers or rebels who opposed the new king’s ascent to the throne, let them look upon Aaron’s staff and remember what God does to grumblers and rebels. After all, the staff was to be “kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put an end to their grumblings.” (Numbers 17:10) Therefore, it is reasonable to suppose that the kings of Judah might have taken the staff of Aaron in hand as one of their coronation rituals. At the end of Judean monarchy, however, the ark was lost (or hidden away) and Aaron’s staff with it.
The Midrash Rabbah assures us that when Messiah comes, Aaron’s staff will be placed into His hand. As a proof text, it cites a verse from Psalm 110, the psalm most quoted by the Apostles as they taught about Yeshua:
That same staff also is destined to be held in the hand of King Messiah (may he come speedily in our days), as it says [in Psalm 110:2], “The Lord will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Your enemies.’” (Numbers Rabbah 18:23)
Moses was the prophet and king. Aaron was the priest.
There are two forms or dimensions of leadership.
1. One is power, the other,
Often, we confuse the two. After all, those who have power often have influence, and those who have influence have a certain kind of power. In fact, however, the two are quite different, even opposites.
Power operates by division; influence by multiplication. With power, the more we share, the less we have. With influence, the more we share, the more we have.
So deep is the difference that the Torah allocates them to two distinct leadership roles:
• Kings had power.
They could levy taxes, conscript people to serve in the army, and decide when and against whom to wage war. They could impose non-judicial punishments to preserve social order. Hobbes famously called kingship a “Leviathan” and defined it in terms of power. The very nature of the social contract, he argued, was the transfer of power from individuals to a central authority. Without this, there could be no government, no defence of a country and no safeguard against lawlessness and anarchy.
• Prophets, by contrast, had no power at all. All they have is influence – divine influence!
They commanded no armies. They levied no taxes. They spoke God’s word, but had no means of enforcing it. All they had was influence – but what influence! To this day, Elijah’s fight against corruption, Amos’ call to social justice, Isaiah’s vision of the end of days, are still capable of moving us by the sheer force of their inspiration.
Who, today, is swayed by the lives of Ahab or Jehoshaphat or Jehu? The kings of Israel.
When a king dies, his power ends. When a prophet dies, his influence begins.
Moses had a unique ministry. he was in a sense prophet, priest and king, wrapped up in one person! Even though monarchy was not yet in existence, he had the power and was the functional equivalent of a king. He led the Israelites out of Egypt, commanded them in battle, appointed leaders, judges and elders, and directed the conduct of the people. Moses had power; he was a king in all but a crown.
But Moses was also a prophet, the greatest and most authoritative of all. He was a man of vision. He heard and spoke the word of God. His influence is incalculable.
10 Since then (the death of Moses), no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,
11 who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt — to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land.
12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
That is, until Yeshua the Messiah.
The same Moses prophesied that “the LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to Him” (Deut 18:14-15).
When Yeshua comes again, He comes as a king, but he is also a prophet and a priest.
In that regard He unites the monarchy and the priesthood and is worthy to wield the staff of Aaron. In Yeshua, the two offices of king and priest are reconciled.
May He come speedily in our days!