Erich Lessing

Aaron places his blooming staff—the sign that he was God’s choice as high priest—and a bowl of manna inside the Ark, in this enamel from the 12th-century Verdun Altar in Austria. According to the Priestly account, a group of Levites, led by Korah, were consumed by fire when they competed against Aaron in offering incense to God. God then ordered Aaron and the leaders of each tribe to bring their staffs into the Tabernacle to find out whom God chose. Only Aaron’s staff bloomed. It was to be kept in the Tabernacle as a reminder to the people. Moses, however, removed the staff and used it—improperly—to strike the rock at Kadesh, author William Propp argues. For this transgression, both Moses and his brother Aaron were barred from the Promised Land.