That the apostles did not understand Jesus’ statement to signify that Peter was the rock-mass is evident from the fact that they later disputed about who seemed to be the greatest among them. (Mark 9:33-35; Luke 22:24-26) There would have been no basis for such disputing had Peter been given the primacy as the rock-mass on which the congregation was to be built. The Scriptures clearly show that all the apostles are equally foundation stones with Peter. All of them, including Peter, rest upon Christ Jesus as the foundation cornerstone. (Eph. 2:19-22; Rev. 21:2, 9-14) Peter himself identified the rock-mass (peʹtra) on which the congregation is built as being Christ Jesus. (1 Pet. 2:4-8) Similarly, the apostle Paul wrote: “For they [the Israelites] used to drink from the spiritual rock-mass that followed them, and that rock-mass meant the Christ.” (1 Cor. 10:4) On at least two occasions and in two different locations the Israelites received a miraculous provision of water from a rock-mass. (Ex. 17:5-7; Num. 20:1-11) Therefore, the rock-mass as a source of water, in effect, followed them. The rock-mass itself was evidently a pictorial or symbolic type of Christ Jesus, who said to the Jews: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”—John 7:37.
It is also of interest that Augustine (354-430 C.E.), usually referred to as “Saint Augustine,” at one time believed that Peter was the rock-mass but later changed his view. He wrote: “The rock is not so named from Peter, but Peter from the rock (non enim a Petro petra, sed Petrus a petra), even as Christ is not so called after the Christian, but the Christian after Christ. For the reason why the Lord says, ‘On this rock I will build my church,’ is that Peter had said: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ On this rock, which thou hast confessed, says he, I will build my church. For Christ was the rock (petra enim erat Christus), upon which also Peter himself was built; for other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”—Quoted from A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures (Matthew, p. 296, ftn.), by J. P. Lange and translated by P. Schaff.
The Hebrew words sheʹvet and mat·theʹ are the words most frequently translated “rod” and “staff.” Sheʹvet has the meaning of a staff, stick or rod (for support) and is also rendered “shaft” and “crook” (as a shepherd’s crook or staff). (Lev. 27:32) Possibly because tribal chieftains carried a staff or scepter, sheʹvet is translated “tribe” when the context indicates that meaning.—Deut. 18:1; 29:18.
Mat·tehʹ means a branch, bough, shoot, as well as a rod or staff. From its meaning of branch, it is also translated “tribe” when referring to the tribes of Israel. (Ex. 31:2) Another term, maq·qelʹ, is rendered “rod” and “staff,” and mish·ʽeʹneth more often “staff” (related to a word meaning a stay or support of any kind).
The Greek word for “rod” is hraʹbdos, sometimes translated “staff.” Another word, xyʹlon, is rendered “staff” in some translations. It literally means “wood” or something made of wood. This word may refer to “clubs” at Matthew 26:47, 55 and parallel passages.
Rods or staffs were used for support (Ex. 12:11; Zech. 8:4; Heb. 11:21), for defense or protection (2 Sam. 23:21; Matt. 10:10); to punish children, slaves or others (Ex. 21:20 [“stick,” (NW)]; Prov. 10:13; 23:13, 14; Acts 16:22); in threshing (Isa. 28:27 [both mat·tehʹ and sheʹvet appear in this verse, translated “rod” and “staff,” respectively (NW)]; compare Judges 6:11; Ruth 2:17), and for reaping olives. (Deut. 24:20; Isa. 24:13) Also, shepherds used the crook in leading the flock, managing and helping them. As to selecting animals to be given to the sanctuary as a tithe, the Law said, “As for every tenth part of the herd and flock, everything that passes under the crook [whatever falls under the shepherd’s care], the tenth head should become something holy to Jehovah. He should not examine whether it is good or bad, neither should he exchange it.” (Lev. 27:32, 33) It is said that the shepherd stood at the gate of the sheepfold as the sheep were coming out; on the end of his staff he had fastened a piece of cloth soaked in dye; this he touched to every tenth sheep and set aside the ones thus marked as the tithe. (Compare Jeremiah 33:13.) The shaft of a spear or like weapon was designated by the Hebrew words sheʹvet or ʽets.—2 Sam. 18:14; 21:19.
AS A SYMBOL OF AUTHORITY
One’s staff was considered a valuable personal possession, and some staffs were doubtless identifiable as belonging to the individual. Judah gave Tamar his staff and his signet ring as security until he should send her a kid of the goats in payment for his relations with her. (Gen. 38:18, 25) Chieftains carried a rod as a symbol of authority. Therefore the Bible often uses the rod in this way, to symbolize the authority one has or the authority vested in him by another. Moses’ rod became a symbol of his authority and commission from God when he appeared before the older men of Israel, also when he appeared before Pharaoh and the magic-practicing priests of Egypt. (Ex. 4:29-31; 7:9-12) In the latter case the rod is said to be Aaron’s, but it was evidently Moses’ rod used by Aaron as Moses’ spokesman, as a comparison of Exodus 7:15, 17 indicates.
After this, Moses’ rod was used many times as a symbol that he was appointed and backed up by Jehovah with authority as the nation’s leader. (Ex. 8:5; 9:23; 10:13; Num. 20:11) When the authority of Moses and Aaron was challenged, God caused the rod of Aaron, representing the house of Levi, out of all the rods for the leaders of the twelve tribes, to bud and produce ripe almonds. This thoroughly proved that Levi was the tribe designated by God to hold the office and authority of the priesthood. This rod was thereafter kept for some time in the ark of the covenant.—Num. 17:1-11; Heb. 9:4.
The psalmist wrote: “The utterance of Jehovah to my Lord is: ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’ The rod of your strength Jehovah will send out of Zion, saying: ‘Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.’” (Ps. 110:1, 2) The apostle Paul applies this text to Jesus Christ, who has, as it were, the ‘rod of Jehovah’s strength,’ going forth as Jehovah’s representative with full authority to execute judgment on his enemies. (Heb. 10:12, 13) Jesus Christ, the “twig out of the stump of Jesse,” “must strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the spirit of his lips he will put the wicked one to death.” (Isa. 11:1, 4) He speaks with the authority and exercises the power that Jehovah has given him to punish the wicked. Of the nations, it is said that he will rule them, not as a shepherd peacefully leading the flock with his staff, but with an iron rod.—Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15.
The oppressive rod or staff of rule or authority that the enemies of Israel wielded over her is referred to at Isaiah 9:4; 14:5. God used the nations around Israel, such as Assyria, to execute punishment on Israel for her sins, and in this action those nations were as a rod of punishment or chastisement, under God’s authority or allowance. Yet these nations acted, not out of love for Jehovah or hate for the sins of Israel, but out of enmity to both God and Israel, and they went beyond their commission and enjoyed heaping additional afflictions upon Israel. Besides that, these powers, especially Assyria and Babylon, lifted themselves up in haughtiness against Jehovah God himself. God said of Assyria by means of his prophet Isaiah: “Aha, the Assyrian, the rod for my anger,” but he also described Assyria’s haughtiness, saying: “Will the ax enhance itself over the one chopping with it, or the saw magnify itself over the one moving it back and forth, as though the staff moved back and forth the ones raising it on high, as though the rod raised on high the one who is not wood?” Then he foretold