Recently during a mid-week Bible study, a brother presented a short talk on the question the LORD asked Moses.
The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” (Exodus 4:2 ESV)
We are not surprised to find a staff in the hand of Moses. Earlier in the same context we have learn that Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro.
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. (Exodus 3:1 ESV)
The staff and the rod (Psalm 23:4) were the tools of the shepherd of Bible times. Here is a brief comment about the rod and staff from the Florida College Annual Lectures of 1993.
“Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me” (vs. 4). Shepherding was a dangerous profession. There were wild animals, thieves and robbers, and some means for defense was needed. The shepherd would carry the rod and staff for the protection of his flock. The rod (Hebrew, shēbet) was a short club about 30 inches long made from an oak sapling. The bulging head was shaped out of the stem at the beginning of the root. It was especially used as a weapon against men and animals who might threaten the flock. The staff (Hebrew, mish’eneth) was a straight pole about six feet long. Mackie says,
“Its service was for mountain climbing, for striking troublesome goats and sheep, beating leaves from branches beyond the reach of his flock, and especially for leaning upon. As he stood clasping the top of his stick with both hands, and leaning his head against it, his conspicuous and well-known figure gave confidence to the sheep grazing around him among the rocks and bushes of the wilderness.” (Mackie 291)
Most of the shepherds that I have seen throughout the Middle East carry a short staff – one that comes about waist high.