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Chapters sixteen through eighteen record a series of events that God used to confirm his selection of the Levites to minister in the tabernacle and the family of Aaron, specifically, to serve as his priests. In the Hebrew text, chapter sixteen ends with verse thirty-five, adding the final fifteen verses to chapter seventeen. Since they are all part of the same events, the chapter division does not make that much of a difference.
Chapter seventeen provides one more example of God’s obvious choice of Aaron over the others as high priest. After watching 15,000 of their fellow Israelites die in two days because of their rebellion, twelve leaders of Israel each presented a staff to Moses at God’s command. Each tribe was represented, with Aaron standing for Levi. God had Moses bring the staffs into the Most Holy Place overnight, and he would cause one of them to blossom, indicating his choice. The men had their names carved into their own staffs, so that the result was obvious. In the morning, not only had Aaron’s staff blossomed, it had grown fully-mature almonds! God had Aaron’s staff remain in the Most Holy Place at the ark as a constant reminder to the people of whom God had chosen.