Rod stands in the A.V. as the representative of several different Hebrew words, and consequently has various significations in the Scriptures (חֹטֶר, choter, a shoot, Pr 14:3; Isa 11:1; מִקֵּל, makkel, a twig, Ge 30:37-39,41; Ge 32:10; Ex 12:11; Nu 22:27; 1Sa 17:40,43; Jer 1:11; Jer 48:17; Eze 39:9; Ho 4:12; Zec 11:7,10,14; elsewhere מִטֶּה, matteh, a stick, especially for walking or smiting, or שֶׁבֶט, shebet, the baton of office; ῥαβδός). It signifies a wand or walking staff: as Moses' rod (Ex 4:2,4), Aaron's rod (7:9), Jonathan's rod (1Sa 14:27). The rods of Moses and Aaron were the visible means chosen by the Almighty for the instrument of his wonders in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness. The rod of Moses is sometimes called "the rod of God" (Ex 4:20; Ex 7:9,12,19-20; Ex 8:5,17; Ex 9:23; Ex 10:13). Aaron's rods, which miraculously blossomed and brought forth almonds, was laid up as a memorial in the holy place (Nu 17:8,10; Heb 9:4). As the wonders wrought by the instrumentality of Moses' and Aaron's rods attracted the attention of neighboring nations, it is not extraordinary if, in course of time, these personages were interwoven with mythology (see Willemer, De Baculo Mosis [Viteb. 1680]). It has been plausibly conjectured that Aaron's rod, which in its serpent state devoured the serpent rods of the Egyptian magicians, was the prototype of the caduceus, or wonder working rod of Mercury, which was figured as entwined with two serpents. Aaron's rod was caused to blossom miraculously and bring forth almonds (Nu 17:8) to show God's election for the priesthood. Parkhurst thinks that the rods of the chiefs among the Israelites were of the almond tree, to denote vigilance, that being an early tree, flowering before all others. The shepherd's staff is called "a rod;" and the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, was to be taken from "whatsoever passed under the rod," i.e. from whatsoever required the shepherd's care (27:32; Jer 33:13; Eze 20:37; Mic 7:14). The term "rod" also means a shoot or branch of a tree, and in this sense is applied figuratively to Christ as a descendant of Jesse (Isa 11:1). "Rod" is used to designate the tribes of Israel as springing from one root (Ps 74:2; Jer 10:16). It is used as the symbol of power and authority (Ps 120:2; Ps 125:3; Jer 48:17; Eze 19:11; Re 2:27); of that which supports and strengthens, a stay or staff (Ps 23:4; Isa 3:1; Eze 29:6); and of the afflictions with which God disciplines his people (Job 9:34; Heb 12:6-7). (See Cooper, Hist. of the Rod in all Countries and Ages [2d ed. Lond. 1877].) SEE SCEPTRE; SEE STAFF.
A peculiar use of rods is afforded in the instance of those of poplar and hazel (more properly the wild almond) which Jacob partially peeled, and set in the water where Laban's cattle drank, and by looking at which they brought forth speckled and ring-streaked young. Commentators are not agreed as to the effect thus produced: whether it was natural or miraculous; whether the sight of the rods had naturally such an effect on the animals' perceptions as to influence the markings of their offspring, in the manner that children often receive marks before birth, from some object that has impressed itself on the mother's mind, or whether it was a special operation of God in Jacob's favor, which, in fact, seems clearly intimated in Ge 31:10,12. where Jacob declares himself to have been guided on this subject by God in a dream. The Latin fathers considered the case as natural, the Greek as miraculous, which is also the prevailing opinion of modern commentators, who consider it very doubtful whether the same cause (the use of variegated rods) would now certainly produce the same effects. SEE POPLAR.
Rhabdomancy, or divining by rods, became a common superstition or idolatrous custom among the Jews, arising, doubtlessly, from the ideas of supernatural agency attached to the rods of Moses and Aaron. It is alluded to in Ho 4:12 "My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them." It was performed, first, by inscribing certain characters on small rods, and then drawing them, like lots, out of a vessel; secondly, by measuring the rod in spans, and saying, alternately, words expressing a negative and an affirmative, and then determining, according to the last span, whether negative or affirmative, to do the intended action or not; thirdly, by erecting two sticks, repeating a charm, and then determining by certain rules, according as the sticks fell backward or forward, to the right or to the left. SEE DIVINATION.