Aaron's rod, the shepherd's staff used by Moses' brother Aaron in the Old Testament, exhibits God's miraculous powers in the Biblical plagues and later again in designating the tribe of Levi as members of the priesthood.

In the Book of Exodus, Moses and Aaron approach the Pharaoh and tell him that God demands freedom for the Israelites, but Pharaoh refuses. God sends a warning to Pharaoh by turning Aaron's rod into a snake when he casts it to the ground, but Pharaoh responds by having his sorcerers turn their rods into snakes, which however, Aaron's consumes and then turns back into a rod. God's power, through Aaron's rod, also subsequently turns the Nile's water to blood and summons frogs and gnats as Moses and Aaron implement the ten plagues of Egypt. The plagues show that the God of the Israelites (a small tribe) possesses far more power than the gods of the Egyptians (a major world power), which by extension implies that truth and faith prevail. The conquering and saving power of Aaron's rod (but probably more notably Moses' rod) can be considered in this context as a typological prefiguration of the cross.

Aaron's rod displays miraculous powers again in the Book of Numbers. Korah rebels against Moses, the earth opens to swallow him and his fellow rebels, and a plague ensues. Aaron's rod stops the destruction, and God commands that each of the twelve tribes then stick a rod into the ground, and that of the tribe designated to become priests will blossom overnight. Aaron provides his rod for the Levites, which blossoms and bears almonds. This event has been interpreted as a type of the virgin birth of Jesus.

In "Signs of the Times" Carlyle writes, "It is grievous to think, that this noble omnipotence of Sympathy has been so rarely the Aaron's-rod of Truth and Virtue, and so often the Enchanter's-rod of Wickedness and Folly!" This allusion to Aaron's rod (powered by the will of God) as compared to the rods of the Pharaoh's sorcerers criticizes the false prophets — "large communities of sane men" — that cite Sympathy as sound moral philosophy. Victorians commonly believed that there existed some moral sense that acted as an internal mechanism enforcing the Golden Rule. Carlyle challenges this belief, pointing to the political ramifications of the idea of Sympathy, as manifest in the French Revolution and the Salem witch trials.


"Aaron's Rod." 26 January 2009. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Accessed 22 March 2009.

Klutz, Todd. Magic in the Biblical World: From the Rod of Aaron to the Ring of Solomon. London: T & T Clark International, 2003.

Nigosian, Solomon. Magic and Divination in the Old Testament. Portland: Sussex Academic Press, 2008.

Polzin, Robert. Late Biblical Hebrew: Toward an Historical Typology of Biblical Hebrew Prose. Missoula: Scholars Press, 1976.

Seitz, Christopher. Figured Out: Typology and Providence in Christian Scripture. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.

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Last modified 15 March 2009