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Thy Rod And Thy Staff

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." (Psalm 23:1-6 RSV)

Aaron's Rod In Bible History, two of the most important tools of a Shepherd were the rod and staff. The rod was a stick about a yard/meter long with a knob on one end, while the staff, or "shepherd's crook," looked somewhat like a modern cane, although sometimes longer.

While they were technically two different tools, there is often very little difference between the original Hebrew words for them. In fact, for example, the very same Hebrew word, pronounced mat-taw, is translated sometimes as rod, and at other times as staff, even within the same translation. An example from the traditional King James version:

  • "And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff [mat-taw] that is in thine hand." (Genesis 38:18 KJV)

  • "And thou shalt take this rod [mat-taw] in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs." (Exodus 4:17 KJV)

As is so often the case, various translations also use different words for the same original word e.g. for Exodus 7:12, the King James Version (KJV) and the Revised Standard Version (RSV) use rod, while the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and New International Version (NIV) use staff.

In the case of Aaron's rod, or Aaron's Staff, which was used by Aaron and Moses before Pharaoh and after the Exodus, the object shown in the illustration above has the shape of a rod (no "crook" on the end), but the length of a staff (a rod was usually shorter). We do know that his rod, or staff, was no longer than about 43 inches - otherwise it would not have been possible to place it in The Ark Of The Covenant, which was that length (Exodus 25:10).

Fact Finder: Did Moses use a rod/staff in the parting of the Red Sea?
Exodus 14:16

This Week's Bible Quiz

Which son of Israel (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin) is the missing word? (Revised Standard Version)

1. "Now Israel loved _______ more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a long robe with sleeves (KJV coat of many colors)"

2. "_______, you are my first-born, my might, and the first fruits of my strength, pre-eminent in pride and pre-eminent in power."

3. "The scepter shall not depart from _______, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until He comes to Whom it belongs; and to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples."

4. "_______ shall dwell at the shore of the sea; he shall become a haven for ships, and his border shall be at Sidon."

5. "The sons of Rachel: Joseph and _______."

6. "On the third day, when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and _______, Dinah's brothers, took their swords and came upon the city unawares, and killed all the males"

7. "_______'s food shall be rich, and he shall yield royal dainties."

8. "_______ shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. _______ shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse's heels so that his rider falls backward. I wait for thy salvation, O Lord."

9. "The sons of Bilhah, Rachel's maid: Dan and _______."

10. "The sons of Zilpah, Leah's maid: _______ and Asher."

For the answers to this June 19 2001 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page

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