We make two errors when we think of Aaron’s rod. Either we conclude it a shepherd’s staff or we assume it a walking stick. So we have a hard time wrapping our heads around the idea that such a long stick could fit into a small chest.
But there are enough reasons to think it was a short stick and not a long one.
Aaron’s Rod Was Actually Moses’ Rod
To start with, the rod attributed to Aaron was first a belonging of Moses. During the burning bush encounter when Moses was charged with a rescue mission to Egypt, he was asked to cast down his rod, and it instantly became a snake. From then on, the rod was no longer ordinary. In fact, it was later described as the rod of God.
And when Moses was to leave for Egypt, God said to him,
“You shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do the signs.” (Exodus 4:17)
Here was the plan.
Moses would go to Egypt with the rod as the tool with which he would perform signs and wonders. He would recruit Aaron as his spokesperson and in every instance, he would tell him what to say and do.
Moses Handed The Rod Over To Aaron
Now upon arriving Egypt, Moses went further to let the rod come under Aaron’s custody.
The scripture does not explicitly state this but here’s how you’ll know.
Aaron Had No Wonder-Working Rod
Recall the first sign they did before Pharaoh? Moses, told Aaron to cast down his rod so it could become a serpent. But how on earth did Aaron get a wonder-performing rod? Did God give him one? God had already made Moses’ rod mysterious and had compelled him to take it along for wonder-performing purposes? And Moses did take it along. Why would another mysterious rod be given to Aaron?
Only Moses Knew About the Transforming Rod
Besides, Moses was the only one who knew about a rod that could turn to serpent. Aaron wasn’t there that day. If Moses instructed Aaron to cast down his rod so it would turn to a snake, it only means Moses’ rod was the one been referred to and it was now in Aaron’s care.
Moses Told Aaron Everything About the Burning Bush
Remember also, that when Moses found Aaron, after leaving the burning bush, he reported all that he had encountered with God and how he had been commissioned to deliver the Israelites (Exodus 4:27-29). It is likely that the talk about the rod would have come in and Moses would have thought it a good idea to let Aaron have the rod with him. After all, they would be working together, with Aaron in a subservient role.
The Bible Indicates Shared Usage and Ownership
To let us know that it was one and the same rod, the bible hinted a shared usage of it. That’s why at different instances, the wonder-working rod was called Aaron’s rod and Moses’ rod. However, it probably stayed more with Aaron as Moses concerned himself more with superior responsibilities.
Why The Rod Was Not A Shepherd’s Staff
Now, if this Aaron’s rod was Moses’ rod, we can easily rule out the thought of a walking stick. At the burning bush, Moses was obviously not using it for that purpose. If he was so weak that he needed a walking aid, he would have no business leading a flock in the desert.
But that’s only a part of the puzzle. Agreed, it was not a walking stick. But how are we sure it was not a shepherd’s staff as well?
Your Rod and Your Staff
One of the cardinal points of Psalm 23, is where it says, “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me”. Even though the Psalmist was speaking about the Lord, he used the character of a shepherd. And from his description, we realize that a shepherd could have a staff and at the same time a rod.
In Moses’ instance, the bible calls it a rod and not a staff. That means, what Moses had was a shepherd’s rod and not a shepherd’s staff. The staff was often used by the shepherd to control the sheep without coming very close. That’s one of the reasons it was usually long. Meanwhile, a shepherd’s rod was often short and used to fight – in defence.
The Hebrew Words Matteh and Shebet
In the burning bush episode (Exodus 4), the Hebrew word translated as rod, is matteh. The ordinary meaning of Matteh is “a branch”. “A branch” seems like a more appropriate term for a short rod rather than a long staff. A shepherd’s staff would usually be long with a prominent curve inwards at one end. It is a no-brainer that this is not a description that fits a “branch”.
To stretch it further, the Hebrew word Shebet, translated rod in Psalm 23 also refers, ordinarily to “a scion”. A scion is a shoot; a sprout. It is usually not long.
By using the words Matteh and Shebet, the Bible really is pointing our minds to a short rod and not a long staff.
What is that in Your Hand?
This was the question God asked Moses at the burning bush; to which he responded, “a rod”. Looking at it closely, “What is that in your hand?” suggests that the bearer wields a handy tool rather than a towering pole. The shepherd’s staff was often so long that it was taller than him.
If you meet two persons and one was holding a stick that was taller than him, while the other had a handy tool, who would you ask, “What is that in your hand”? The odds are really against the towering pole, because even mere intuition tilts towards the handy tool.
What Do You Think?
Two and a half cubits, was the length of the ark. That’s about 1.14m long. We have seen why it is more likely that Aaron’s rod wasn’t a long staff or a walking stick but a shorter rod. Would it still be farfetched to think that such could slide into an ark more than a metre long?