Genesis 32:10 (Said by Jacob) …for with MY STAFF I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.
Exodus 12:11 …[with] YOUR staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’S Passover.
The word staff in Hebrew means “support.” It’s a stick its owner can lean on.
From studying staffs in Scripture, it became quickly clear to me that staffs were very personalized. The word staff was often preceded by the word “my,” “your,” or “his.”
So unique in appearance was a man’s staff that it could even be left behind as a marker for the owner. It would have been like leaving your driver’s license information on a rental. The staff was right up there with a man’s jewelry or signet ring, like Judah shows us in Gen. 32. Your staff, walking stick, or “support” was recognized by others.
A staff was used by the shepherd for a very specific purpose and could be straight or have the curved crook at the top. But it would have other unique features. Carving, color, inlays, or shape might distinguish it. If there were a pile of staffs outside a building, you could pick yours out.
The staff was also a very common day to day accessory in the Bible, not just for shepherds. The Middle East land is rough, covered with rocks, and hilly. It was prudent to have a staff or support any time you traveled throughout the countryside. It was part of what Jesus told his disciples to bring along on their journeys (Mark 6:8).
I started to think about the question: what is our staff, what is it that we lean on? Do we lean on a certain job, our family, the government, our intelligence, health, good looks, money, retirement plans? It’s worth thinking about what we are leaning on in this life. I think the recent crisis has challenged a lot of people to think about what they are leaning on.
If people were known by their staffs, I also think it is interesting to think about what we are known for. What we lean on helps determine what we are known for. Our faith marks us if we live in trust of the Lord. We want to be resting our lives on those things that endure; faith, hope and love. The greatest is love.