Back in Exodus, Moses and Aaron's staffs performed some pretty heavy-duty miracles. God turned Moses's into a snake and back again (Exodus 4:3-4). Later, Aaron's staff did the same thing in front of Pharaoh (Exodus 7:10). Their staffs also activated the Ten Plagues on Egypt (Exodus 7-11). And parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14:16). All in a day's work.
Really Useful Staffs
That's a lot of heavy lifting for a couple of simple little walking canes. But the miracles aren't over yet. No sir. In Numbers, God uses Aaron's staff to show exactly who's in charge:
Moses spoke to the Israelites; and all their leaders gave him staffs, one for each leader, according to their ancestral houses, twelve staffs; and the staff of Aaron was among theirs. So Moses placed the staffs before the Lord in the tent of the covenant. When Moses went into the tent of the covenant on the next day, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted. It put forth buds, produced blossoms, and bore ripe almonds. (17:6-8)
That's right. The guy holding the fancy staff is the one you should be listening to, everyone. Moses also uses his staff to get water out of the rock in Meriba:
Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank. (20:11)
Why all the staffs? Well, a big stick can be seen as a symbol of authority. Shepherds carry staffs as they lead their sheep around. Plus, there's the whole phallic nature of them. Yup. Walking around with a big rod in your hand seems a lot like you're trying to advertise your male superiority, if you know what we mean. (Penises. That's what we mean.)
Basically, if you were walking down the street and you saw a guy carrying a giant stick, you'd think twice before crossing him. And that's why Moses and Aaron get to do all kinds of really cool stuff with their rods. (Ew. Get your mind out of the gutter.)
In Popular Culture
But Moses and Aaron aren't the only ones who get to carry around super special and spiritually powerful staffs:
- Gandalf always has his magic staff with him, even though he occasionally passes it off as an old man's walking cane.
- Donatello from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles uses a bō staff to kick some bad guy butt.
- Gambit of the X-Men comics uses an adamantium staff. That's hard-core. Literally.
- In Aladdin, Jafar uses his snake-shaped staff for evil. Naturally.
- The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia books can also turn people to stone by using her magic staff.