“A staff.” Moses replied.
A simple walking stick, the tool of ancient travellers and of shepherds in the wilderness. A weapon, a tool to rest upon, an object of comfort to we sheep (Psalm 23).
This is used in Exodus as a sign, when Moses turned it into a serpent, or perhaps a crocodile in conflict with the lesser snakes of Pharaoh’s magicians. Moses “staff” eats theirs.
This is used later to bring on 5 of the plagues against Egypt – Moses or Aaron would stretch out their rods and power would go out to bring on the frogs or turn water into blood.
Moses would reach out his rod and the Red Sea would part for a way of escape for Israel and destruction for the army of Pharaoh.
Moses would hit a rock with it in the desert, and water would come out to give life to the people.
Moses would hold it up overhead, giving Israel victory over the Amalekites, but when he sagged under the fatigue of it, they would fail, until Aaron and Hur came to hold up his arms.
(Exodus 4:2,4,17,20; 7:9,10,12,15,17,19,20; 8:5,16,17; 9:23; 10:13; 14:16; 17:5, 9)
However, when Moses spoke to Pharaoh, he tells the king that it is God’s staff that is being held out: “thus says the LORD, ‘By this you shall know that I am the LORD; behold with the staff that is in my hand, I will strike the water that is in the Nile…”
On the others side of victory, the song of Moses says: “You (the Lord) stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them.”
In the confrontation with Pharaoh it did not seem to matter if Moses or Aaron stretched out their rods. This seems to explain it. They were acting out what God was doing – it was God’s power at work, it was His hand and his rod that struck Egypt and later the Amalekites.
So we do not forget that it is not the great leader or the great tool (which is only a stick after all) but the LORD who brings victory.