corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Numbers 27

 

 

Introduction

F. FUTURE PROSPECTS IN THE LAND (chapters 26-36).

We now come to the final main section of the book. It will commence with the numbering of Israel, a sign that they were making ready for the final push, and is divided up into rededication and preparations for entering the land (chapters 26-32), and warning and encouragement with respect to it (chapters 33-36). The first section concentrates on the mobilisation and dedication of the people of Yahweh, and the punishment of those who by their behaviour hinder that mobilisation and dedication.

In terms of the overall pattern of the book the first section covers the mobilisation of Israel, the appointment of Joshua on whom was the Spirit and the death of Moses For Sin (chapters 26-27), which compares with the earlier murmuring of Israel, the appointment of elders on whom came the Spirit, and the plague on Miriam because of sin (chapters 11-12). This then followed by the dedication of Israel through Feasts, Offerings and Vows and the purifying of Transjordan through vengeance on the Midianites and settlement of the two and a half Tribes (chapters 28-32) which compares with the purification and dedication of Israel in chapters 5-10.

Analysis of the section.

(I). Preparation for Entering the Land (chapters 26-32).

This can be divided up into:

a Numbering of the tribes for possessing the land (Numbers 26:1-51).

b Instructions concerning division of the land (Numbers 26:52-62).

c Vengeance had been brought on those who had refused to enter the land (Numbers 26:63-65).

d Regulation in respect of land to be inherited by women and others (Numbers 27:1-11).

e Provision of a dedicated shepherd for the people of Israel (Numbers 27:12-23).

e Provision of a dedicated people and future worship in the land (Numbers 28-29).

d Regulation in respect of dedicatory vows made by women and others (Numbers 30)

c Vengeance to be obtained on Midian (Numbers 31:1-24).

b Instructions concerning division of the spoils of Midian (Numbers 31:25-54).

a Settlement of the Transjordanian tribes in possessing land (Numbers 32).

(II) Warning and Encouragement of The Younger Generation (chapters 33-36).

a Review of the journey from Egypt to the plains of Moab (Numbers 33:1-49).

b Instruction concerning the successful possession of and dividing up of the land in the future (Numbers 33:50 to Numbers 34:15).

c The Leaders who will divide the land for them are appointed (Numbers 34:16-29).

d Provision of cities for the Levites. (Numbers 35:1-5)

d Provision of cities of refuge and prevention of defilement of the land (Numbers 35:6-34).

c The Leaders of the tribe of Manasseh approach Moses about the possible loss of part of their division of the land as a result of the decision about the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 36:1-4).

b Instruction concerning women who inherit land so as to maintain the dividing up of the land which they successfully possess (Numbers 36:5-12)

a Final summary of the book and colophon. The journey is over. They are in the plains of Moab opposite Jericho (Numbers 36:13).

In this section stress is laid on preparation for entering the land.

(I). Overall Preparation for Entering the Land (chapters 26-32).

The preparations include the mobilisation of Israel, instructions as to what to do on entering the land, appointment of a new commander-in-chief in whom is the Spirit, instructions concerning the worship to be offered to Yahweh, a description of the ‘atonement’ for the sin of Baal-peor and purification of the land by the slaughter of the Midianites, and the settling in of the tribes in their land on the east of Jordan, preparatory to their soldiers joining the offensive on Canaan.

Chapters 26-27.

1). Initial Preparations for Entering the Promised Land From The Numbering of The Army To The Appointment of Joshua As Their New Commander-in-Chief (26-27:23).

Analysis.

a The second ‘numbering’ of the army in readiness for entry into the land (Numbers 26:1-51).

b Provision for the possession of the land (Numbers 26:52-62).

c The men of the previous generation not to enter the land (Numbers 26:63-65).

c Faithful men to be allowed to inherit in the land posthumously (Numbers 27:1-11).

b Moses ‘possesses’ the land by viewing it but is not to enter the land (Numbers 27:12-14)

a The solemn appointment of Joshua as commander-in-chief ready for entry into the land (Numbers 27:15-23).

The first step in all this would be the numbering of Israel.

Chapter 27 Regulation In Respect Of Land To Be Inherited By Women and Relatives Where There Is No Full Blood Male Heir And The Provision Of a Shepherd For The People of Israel (Numbers 27:12-23).

This chapter divides into three sections, the provision concerning land to be granted to a man’s family posthumously where he died before entering the land and had no male heir to receive his portion; the command to Moses to ascend a mountain in Abarim (Mount Nebo - Deuteronomy 32:48-52) to behold the land and possess it by sight before he died, and the appointment of a new Shepherd for the people, at Moses’ request, in the person of Joshua, a man in whom is the Spirit, in liaison with Eleazar the Priest. Joshua was one of the two men of the old generation who was not to die.

So these three incidents deal with three different types of men in their dealings with life and death. The first deals with one who was of the new generation, but who died in the wilderness (for he died for his own sins not because of the sin of the people). And yet in his daughters he would inherit the land. The second deals with the one who would die without entering the land, but not as those who died in the wilderness as a punishment had died. He (Moses) would be ‘gathered to his fathers’ as Aaron had been. But he would inherit the land by seeing it with his eyes. And the third deals with a member of the old generation who would enter the new land alive and would indeed inherit the land.

One question that was raised by the closing verses of the last chapter was, what about those who died in the wilderness who were not of the older generation, who did not die because of that sin? Were they to be equally punished by not receiving a portion of the new land if they had no male heirs? Of course if they had male heirs those would receive their portion. A portion of the new land would be allocated to their families. But what if they died without a male heir? Their family would receive no portion of the land that had been promised to the man prior to his dying. Their name would not be remembered in Israel, for they would possess no land, even though they had daughters. Could that be right in the eyes of Yahweh? The answer was to be ‘no, it is not right’.

It is not accidental that this comes immediately after the description of those who through their unbelief died in the wilderness. They had been faced with a challenge, had been unable to trust God, and had drawn back from obedience, and had been sentenced to die miserably in the wilderness. How great a contrast there was between them and these five brave young women of the tribe of Manasseh. They too were faced up with a challenge as the Manassites began to discuss the distribution of their new possessions. They saw themselves as being frozen out, as being thrust to one side, and their father’s name as dying out from Israel. But they believed in Yahweh. They believed that He would not allow them to be treated unfairly and allow their father’s name to perish unjustly. And with great boldness and trepidation they approached Moses and the congregation of Israel to seek to have this great wrong righted. We cannot imagine what huge courage it would have taken, for rarely did young women such as they come to the door of the tent of meeting. But they believed in Yahweh and refused to be daunted, and He saw and gave them what they asked.

They also stand in stark contrast to the women of Moab. It was not theirs to seek to lead men astray after other gods, and to drag men to destruction. Rather they would fight to ensure the preservation of their father’s name , and were deeply concerned for the inheritance that Yahweh had for them. This was the quality of the new generation, and Moses knew that the story would serve as an inspiration to Israel to take their courage in both hands and move forward to establish their names in the land which Yahweh had in store for them.


Verse 1-2

Chapter 27 Regulation In Respect Of Land To Be Inherited By Women and Relatives Where There Is No Full Blood Male Heir And The Provision Of a Shepherd For The People of Israel (Numbers 27:12-23).

This chapter divides into three sections, the provision concerning land to be granted to a man’s family posthumously where he died before entering the land and had no male heir to receive his portion; the command to Moses to ascend a mountain in Abarim (Mount Nebo - Deuteronomy 32:48-52) to behold the land and possess it by sight before he died, and the appointment of a new Shepherd for the people, at Moses’ request, in the person of Joshua, a man in whom is the Spirit, in liaison with Eleazar the Priest. Joshua was one of the two men of the old generation who was not to die.

So these three incidents deal with three different types of men in their dealings with life and death. The first deals with one who was of the new generation, but who died in the wilderness (for he died for his own sins not because of the sin of the people). And yet in his daughters he would inherit the land. The second deals with the one who would die without entering the land, but not as those who died in the wilderness as a punishment had died. He (Moses) would be ‘gathered to his fathers’ as Aaron had been. But he would inherit the land by seeing it with his eyes. And the third deals with a member of the old generation who would enter the new land alive and would indeed inherit the land.

One question that was raised by the closing verses of the last chapter was, what about those who died in the wilderness who were not of the older generation, who did not die because of that sin? Were they to be equally punished by not receiving a portion of the new land if they had no male heirs? Of course if they had male heirs those would receive their portion. A portion of the new land would be allocated to their families. But what if they died without a male heir? Their family would receive no portion of the land that had been promised to the man prior to his dying. Their name would not be remembered in Israel, for they would possess no land, even though they had daughters. Could that be right in the eyes of Yahweh? The answer was to be ‘no, it is not right’.

It is not accidental that this comes immediately after the description of those who through their unbelief died in the wilderness. They had been faced with a challenge, had been unable to trust God, and had drawn back from obedience, and had been sentenced to die miserably in the wilderness. How great a contrast there was between them and these five brave young women of the tribe of Manasseh. They too were faced up with a challenge as the Manassites began to discuss the distribution of their new possessions. They saw themselves as being frozen out, as being thrust to one side, and their father’s name as dying out from Israel. But they believed in Yahweh. They believed that He would not allow them to be treated unfairly and allow their father’s name to perish unjustly. And with great boldness and trepidation they approached Moses and the congregation of Israel to seek to have this great wrong righted. We cannot imagine what huge courage it would have taken, for rarely did young women such as they come to the door of the tent of meeting. But they believed in Yahweh and refused to be daunted, and He saw and gave them what they asked.

They also stand in stark contrast to the women of Moab. It was not theirs to seek to lead men astray after other gods, and to drag men to destruction. Rather they would fight to ensure the preservation of their father’s name , and were deeply concerned for the inheritance that Yahweh had for them. This was the quality of the new generation, and Moses knew that the story would serve as an inspiration to Israel to take their courage in both hands and move forward to establish their names in the land which Yahweh had in store for them.

The Provisions For Inheritance When They Have Entered The Land Where There Was No Male Heir (Numbers 27:1-11).

Analysis.

a The young unmarried daughters of Zelophehad draw near for a judgment by Moses (Numbers 27:1-2).

b The case is put of their father who died having no sons before entry into the land had established his family’s portion in the land (Numbers 27:3).

c The daughters request that he be granted a portion posthumously so that they may receive it as his inheritance among their father’s brothers and this preserve his name in Israel (Numbers 27:4).

d The case is brought before Yahweh (Numbers 27:5).

d Yahweh answers the case to Moses (Numbers 27:6).

c The daughters were to receive their inheritance among their brothers (Numbers 27:7).

b Provisions concerning what is to happen when a man dies having no son to ensure the carrying on of his name (Numbers 27:8-11 a).

a The judgment is established as Yahweh commanded Moses (Numbers 27:11 b).

The Daughters of Zelophehad Draw Near For a Judgment by Moses (Numbers 27:1-2).

What follows deals with an important question. Here was a man who had obeyed Yahweh and fought for Him, and yet whose name would die because he died without a male heir before land could be granted his family. Thus no land would be allocated to his name, and his name would die out in Israel. And his family would seemingly receive no lasting inheritance. Would this be right?

A further reason behind this passage was to enthuse Israel as they sought to enter the land by making them see that Yahweh would ensure that all were blessed. Even if they were slain in battle and had no male heir, their family would not be allowed to suffer. When the portions were allocated, none of the new generation would be omitted except those who had openly rebelled, even if they had died prior to the distribution without a male heir. Land would be allocated to them for their families.

Numbers 27:1

‘Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph; and these are the names of his daughters; Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah.’

In this passage five women of one family approached Moses concerning their rights of inheritance, and the continuing of the name of their father. As he had had no son the continuation of his name would depend on their receiving land in his name. So taking their courage in both hands they appealed to the tribunal of Israel. They were alone in the world. There was no male ready to come and stand with them. But they had each other, and they trusted in Yahweh.

The details are given of their tribal and clan connections in view of the matter in hand, that is, their share in the inheritance of the land. Manasseh was the tribe, Gilead the sub-tribe, Hepher the clan and Zelophehad the family head. All would be important in determining what they inherited. This information would thus be laid before the judges.

It should be noted that this was at this time a red hot issue. The lands of Gilead and Bashan from the Arnon northwards were being allocated to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the descendants of Machir, one of whom had been the father of these five young, unmarried women. And they thought that they had reason to fear that they would be excluded from receiving a portion of that land. Discussion would undoubtedly already be taking place, and they may already have been informed that in view of their position they did not come into the reckoning. Their quality was shown in that they were not willing to accept this situation which would mean their father’s name being forgotten in Israel because no land was connected with it.

For it was in order to obtain land that Israel had journeyed all this way. It was the hope of land that had partially sustained them. Surely then just because he had died without a male heir, that did not mean that his family was excluded from owning land?

Numbers 27:2

‘And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, at the door of the tent of meeting, saying,’

What courage they had. Following correct procedure they brought their request officially so that it could be considered by all Israel, although more strictly by Moses, Eleazar and the chieftains. That it was at the door of the tent of meeting demonstrated that they sought a decision before Yahweh. They came hesitantly and shyly, bolstering each other up, as the representatives of their family name. They clearly had a deep certainty that Yahweh would deal rightly with them. What could have been a better example to Israel at this time than this? In context it is full of meaning. Out of context it becomes just another dispute about land.

It should be noted here, as it will be noted later, that this very approach brings out that womenfolk were thus not of necessity excluded from having their part in such important matters. As with the widows and divorcees mentioned later in regard to oaths (Numbers 30:9), where they were the ‘head’ of their particular family grouping they had equal rights to all other family heads. The reason that men usually took prominence was simply because it was they who were usually the heads of the family and responsible for their welfare and protection. But that did not totally exclude women in the right circumstances.

Yet it would not be easy for them. Standing in that holy place, facing the great men of the nation, they must have quailed. The courage that they mustered exceeded far that which was required to face up to the Anakim. These men of Israel whom they had to face were ‘giants’ indeed. But they believed that they were in the right. And they believed in Yahweh.


Verse 3

The Case is Put of a Their Father Who Has Died Having No Sons Before He Has received His Portion of the Promised Land (Numbers 27:3).

Note their concern. It was that the name of their father might be taken away, because no portion of land would be allocated to him and his family when the distributions were made now that they had conquered the land of Gilead and Bashan. If only males could inherit there would be no portion of land for his name to be attached to, because he had no male heir. But we need not doubt that they were also interested in possession of the land. Then they could take it with them when they married.

Numbers 27:3

Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against Yahweh in the company of Korah, but he died in his own sin, and he had no sons.’

They sought to establish their father’s credentials. They pointed out that he was not one of those who had rebelled against Yahweh in the company of Korah. He was not barred as a rebel. Note their mention of that here. It confirms that that incident was long remembered and that all recognised that such people did not deserve a part in the land. By their behaviour they had excluded themselves. But that was not true of their father.

Nor had he died for the sin of unbelief at Kadesh. He was not one of those doomed to die in the wilderness because of gross disobedience. Rather he died for his own sin, as all sinners must die.

So they did admit that he was a sinner, but only, they stressed, like all who were around him. He died because of his own sin, like all men and women die because of their sins, yet they wanted it recognised that he was no more blameworthy than any other sinner. They did not consider that his death without a male heir demonstrated that Yahweh was angry with him and was cutting his name off from Israel. And they sought confirmation of that fact.

That being so did his family not deserve their portion in the land just like everyone else? Yet as he had died without a son there would be no male in the family for the portion to be allocated to. Thus unless their plea was heeded there would be no allocation to his close family. This seemed wrong to them. There would be no way to perpetuate his name.

The principle behind their statement is interesting. There was a clear recognition that he died for his own sin, not for the sins of the tribe or of others. They were acknowledging individual responsibility. They also refused to accept that his early death had been due to his being under judgment. It had happened, but it did not prove that he was worse than anyone else. We must beware of reading into these ancient people the prejudices of our modern day. Here were five young women who knew what they believed. And they recognised the distinction between those whose sin permanently barred them from God’s mercy, and those whose sin which, while having its own consequences, did not cut people off from His gracious provision. Here was the difference between ‘unwitting sin’ and ‘sin with a high hand’.


Verse 4

Why should the name of our father be taken away from among his family, because he had no son? Give to us a possession among the brethren of our father.”

Now if he had had a son that son would have received his portion in Gilead and Bashan. No one would have argued. He would also have maintained the name of the family in the clan and in Israel. Furthermore he would have seen to the marriage settlements for the girls, so that they could make good marriages. They would not have had to be married empty handed. But by his death without a male heir it was being suggested that this would not now happen. Not only would no land be attached to his name, but his daughters would in fact lose out greatly. For the fact that he had had no son would result in no land being allocated to his immediate family as a result of their victories. His name would therefore be lost, having no land for it to be attached to, and his daughters would be bereft of the support that he had deserved. The head of a related family would, of course be expected to take them under his wing, but they would go there as dependants and suppliants with no property. What they wanted was to ensure that their deceased father would posthumously receive an allocation of land, which would then be passed on to them so that they could take it with them as dowry, with his name permanently attached to the land so that he was remembered for ever.

There are a number of examples elsewhere, where men who married women who owned land became members of the woman’s tribe, so vitally was the name of the tribe and the family connected with the land. See, for example, the case of Jarha, who belonged to pre-Mosaic times and is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 2:34-35. It would explain the introduction of Jair among the Manassites in Numbers 32:41; Deuteronomy 3:14. His father Segub was the son of Hezron of the tribe of Judah, but his mother was the daughter of Machir the Manassite (1 Chronicles 2:21-22). Another example is found in Ezra 2:61; Nehemiah 7:63, where the sons of a priest who had married one of the daughters of Barzillai the rich Gileadite, were called ‘sons of Barzillai’.

But as we shall see later the leaders of Manasseh were concerned that if these young women received land in their father’s name, they married within the clan so that the land might be preserved to Manasseh, and this they gladly agreed to do The story would have a happy ending. A good note on which to end the book (Numbers 36:1-12).

This suggests that after the conquest when land was passed on it still retained its attachment to the family name of the original recipient throughout the generations. This was why the prophets were so angry at those who took advantage of bad times to add land to land, thus blotting out the memory of the land’s original owner for ever. It was a crime against the memory of Israel.


Verse 5

The Case Is Brought Before Yahweh (Numbers 27:5).

Numbers 27:5

‘And Moses brought their cause before Yahweh.’

Moses clearly acknowledged that they had a case for he brought the matter before Yahweh, probably by entering the inner sanctuary and standing before the veil (compare Numbers 7:89).


Verse 6-7

Yahweh Acknowledges The Rightness of Their Case. The Daughters Are To Receive Their Inheritance Among Their Brothers (Numbers 27:6-7).

Numbers 27:6-7

‘And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “The daughters of Zelophehad speak right. You shall surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren; and you shall cause the inheritance of their father to pass to them.”

Yahweh confirmed to Moses that the land in Gilead and Bashan having been conquered they should be given the portion that would have fallen to their father, or to his male heir, if either had been alive. They would be able to inherit in their father’s name and take with them into their marriages land which would ever be seen as having been their father’s. So would his name be remembered in Israel. He would not have died without just reward for his service for Yahweh. (That is why later it will be stressed that they must marry within the family - Numbers 36:6).

For us this is a reminder that God is always faithful. No man or woman will ever serve God and then through unfortunate circumstance lose their reward. None will ever be forgotten. So we too must have courage and go forward, and never flinch whatever is demanded of us.


Verses 8-11

A General Case Is Then Made Of What Is To Happen When A Man Dies Having No Son (Numbers 27:8-11 a).

This solution would settle the concerns of many still living fathers who only had daughters. Some who had as yet no male heir would undoubtedly have been concerned about what would happen to their name, and what would happen to their families, if they were slain in the forthcoming warfare before having a male heir. (Compare how a newly married man was excluded from warfare for one year to give him time to breed an heir- Deuteronomy 24:5. It was put in terms of ‘cheering his wife’ but nothing would cheer her more than that). Now they could rest at peace. Their close family would still receive their portion posthumously after their death.

Numbers 27:8-9

And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying, “If a man die, and has no son, then you shall cause his inheritance to pass to his daughter, and if he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers.’

The point being established was twofold. Firstly that the family of every ‘head of family’ of the new generation would receive a portion in the land whatever happened to him, and whether he died or not, or whether he had a male heir or not. It was a guarantee that as long as he had children his name would thus be preserved and his family’s welfare ensured. If he had a daughter, she would receive his portion. And if he had no daughter his own brothers would receive it, with of course the responsibility to remember his name and look after his widow.

Numbers 27:10

‘And if he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers.’

And if he had no brothers then the land would pass to his uncles who would bear the same responsibility.

Numbers 27:11 a

‘And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it.’

And if he also had no uncles, his nearest male relative would inherit it, and would possess it. So would the inheritance remain in the family who would have a responsibility for the remembering of his name. At least in theory, no man of the new generation would ever die forgotten (unlike the old who died in the wilderness).

Numbers 27:11 b

‘And it shall be to the children of Israel a statute and ordinance, as Yahweh commanded Moses.’

And this was so important that it was to be a statute and ordinance in Israel, as Yahweh had commanded Moses.

Note on Inheritance Laws.

We have in this passage an insight into the inheritance laws of those days. Land was to pass to the male heirs, with the firstborn receiving double because of his heavier responsibilities as head of the family (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). This did not necessarily mean that the land was divided. It would often be wiser to keep the land as one and work it together. But each would have his name attached to part of the land. The women would be given their dowry when they married, something of value, in the case of the better off a dowry of gold and jewels and gorgeous clothing, and in the case of rulers even of cities. But then they would come under the auspices of their new family. Meanwhile the males would have provided for their dowries and would continue to provide for the old families. We can see why these young women were concerned. If they did not receive their father’s portion they would be thrown on charity for their provision. But it was also true that if their father’s name had no land attached to it, it would soon be forgotten. Land was closely connected with family. That was why in the year of Yubile all land would revert to the original family which had owned it (Leviticus 25:13). That was one reason why names and lands were closely linked together.

End of note.


Verses 12-14

Moses Is Told To Prepare Himself For Death After First Seeing The Land. He Pleads For A New Shepherd For The People (Numbers 27:12-17).

Having established that all of the new generation who had died (in contrast with the old. The old died as a punishment. The new did not) would have their names remembered in receiving a portion of land in the future from the conquered lands, the time came for the grand old man of both generations to die. But his death was not like that of the old, it was like that of the new. Even though he too ‘died for his sin’ with which he had sinned at Kadesh, it was not a punishment for the sin at Kadesh thirty eight years previously. It was not his destiny to die under that sentence. And before he died he would gaze with wonder on the land which Yahweh had brought them to, and had promised them.

Analysis.

a Moses to ascend a mountain to see the land after which he will be gathered to his people (Numbers 27:12-13).

b It was because he rebelled against Yahweh’s command in the strife of the people (meribah) to sanctify Him (qdsh) in the eyes of the people at the waters (Numbers 27:13 a).

b These waters were the waters of Meribah (strife) of Kadesh (qdsh) in the wilderness (Numbers 27:13 b).

a Moses pleads for a man to replace him lest they be as sheep without a shepherd on his departure (Numbers 27:14-17).

Moses To Ascend A Mountain To See The Land After Which He Will Be Gathered To His People (Numbers 27:12-13).

Numbers 27:12

‘And Yahweh said to Moses, “Get yourself up into this mountain of Abarim, and behold the land which I have given to the children of Israel.” ’

Yahweh was merciful to His old servant. While he had forfeited his right to enter the land because of his sin, he was to be allowed to possess it with his eyes. We can compare here Genesis 13:14-16. Abraham too possessed with his eyes what would one day belong to his descendants. And now Moses was having the promises confirmed. He was not as one who was excluded from the land to die in the wilderness because of the rebellion of unbelief. He would die in a place prepared by God, having seen the land with his own eyes, knowing that it would soon belong to his people, for that was why Yahweh had caused him to bring them there.

Zelophehad’s daughters were to possess the land by being allocated his portion. But Moses was to possess for a brief span the whole land. He would feast his eyes on it and see it as the land given to them by God. And Joshua would do even more. He would possess the whole land in reality. So does this chapter move on in progression.

Both this and the last passage therefore emphasise the difference between the deaths of the old generation who died in the wilderness because of their unbelief, and the deaths of those who had not been involved in that extreme unbelief, and who therefore in one way or another would possess the land.

So even Moses failed at the last. He was faithful in all his house, but he was a sinner. But when the greater Moses came, our Lord Jesus Christ, He would not fail or be discouraged (Isaiah 42:4). It would seem so at first when they hung Him, obedience intact, on a cross, but from that ‘failure’ would come forth the salvation of the world. He would say, ‘Lo, I come to do your will, O my God’ (Hebrews 10:7; Hebrews 10:9), and die for us all and rise again, a resurrection which would bring new significance to the death of Moses.

Numbers 27:13

And when you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother was gathered,”

Once Moses had seen the land with his own eyes he would then be ‘gathered to his people’ as Aaron had been. He would join them in the grave world. His death, while occurring earlier than it should have because of his sin, was not to be seen as punishment on the level of that meted out in the wilderness. It was a graded punishment (a reminder to us that God does grade punishment).

This Being Gathered To His People Was Because He Had Rebelled Against Yahweh’s Command Due To The Strife of the People (meribah) And Had Thus Failed To Sanctify Him (qdsh) In The Eyes of the People at The Waters (Numbers 27:13 a).

Numbers 27:14

Because you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the waters before their eyes.”

His punishment, though milder, was due to the fact that he too had been guilty of a form of rebellion. He had not ‘believed’ fully and had rebelled against Yahweh’s word, and had thus failed to ‘reveal Him as holy’ (qdsh) at the waters in the eyes of the people, because of the people’s strife (meribah). He had allowed his view of the people to cause him to disobey Yahweh.

Numbers 27:14 b

‘(These are the waters of Meribah (strife) of Kadesh (sanctified place) in the wilderness of Zin.)’

For that was what the waters of ‘Meribah’, of strife, in ‘Kadesh’, in the place of sanctification, were all about. Note the play on words with the previous sentence. It should have been a place of sanctification, but it became a place of strife both for the people and for Moses and Aaron. What God had intended to be for everyone’s good had brought misery to everyone because of how they took it. If only all had looked only to Yahweh, how blessed they would have been!


Verses 15-17

Moses Pleads For a Man to Replace Him Lest The People Be As Sheep Without a Shepherd On His Departure (Numbers 27:15-17).

But the heart of Moses is revealed in his reaction. The people had caused his downfall, but he still yearned that they might be watched over and cared for. And he pleaded with God to provide them with a suitable shepherd.

Numbers 27:15-17

‘And Moses spoke to Yahweh, saying, “Let Yahweh, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who may go out before them, and who may come in before them, and who may lead them out, and who may bring them in, that the congregation of Yahweh be not as sheep which have no shepherd.”

Moses thought back over his long experience of these people and he pleaded with Yahweh to provide someone who would be as patient with them as he had been. It would have to be a man of patient spirit, of tender spirit, of compassionate spirit, of merciful spirit. But Who better to provide such a man than Yahweh, the God of ‘the spirits of all flesh?’ Man had been made of flesh, of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7), but God had breathed breath into him and he had lived (Genesis 2:7). And He Who had put that breath within man could surely therefore arrange for a man who had a spirit which could enable him to shepherd this people.

Compare here Numbers 16:22 where Yahweh being the God of the spirits of all flesh (because He had imparted that spirit) was expected to be compassionate for that reason. He had made man what he is.

What was needed was a man who, like a shepherd, would go out in front of them to protect them and watch for the dangers that lay ahead. He would also need to be one who came in among them to bring Yahweh’s message to them and to encourage them. He had to be one who could lead them out to face their destiny, and who could lead them in the right way, and he had to be one who could bring them in again safely to the shelter of the camp. So he prayed that God would appoint such a man.


Verses 18-23

The Appointment Of A New Shepherd (Numbers 27:18-23).

And now we come to the one who can enter the land alive, the one chosen by Yahweh to replace Moses. Joshua had been Moses ‘servant. He had been with Moses in Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:13; Exodus 32:17). He had watched over the old tent of meeting where he had probably done scribal work for Moses (Exodus 33:11). He had led Israel to victory in its first battle (Exodus 17:9-10). He had believed and stood firm when ten of the scouts had discouraged the people (Numbers 14:6-9). So he was well trained for his new position, for Yahweh had overseen his training. And he was a man in whom was the Spirit.

Analysis.

a Moses to take Joshua and lay his hands on him (Numbers 27:18).

b Moses to set him before Eleazar and the congregation and give him his charge (Numbers 27:19).

c Moses’ honour to be put on him so that all the people obey him (Numbers 27:20).

c Enquiry of Yahweh by Eleazar with Urim and Thummim results in all who go out and come in doing so at his word (Numbers 27:21).

b Joshua set by Moses before Eleazar and the congregation (Numbers 27:22).

a Moses lays his hands on him and gives him his charge (Numbers 27:23).

Numbers 27:18

‘And Yahweh said to Moses, “Take you Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him,” ’

In response to Moses’ plea Yahweh pointed to his man. He was to take Joshua, the son of Nun, a man full of the Spirit of God (compare Num 12:25). God would work through him as He had worked through Moses. And Moses was to lay his hand on him. The laying on of hands was the sign that a man had been set apart for God’s service. It was also a way of identifying with the person concerned. By this all would know that he was Moses’ chosen replacement.

Numbers 27:19

And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.”

Then the whole congregation of Israel were to be gathered together, and there he would be set before ‘the Priest’, Eleazar, and given his charge to fulfil his responsibility faithfully.

Numbers 27:20

And you shall put of your honour on him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may obey.”

Thus would the honour in which Moses was held be placed on Joshua. And he would be recognised as honoured by God. And thus the people would (hopefully) obey him as they had obeyed Moses.

Numbers 27:21

And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall enquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before Yahweh, at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.”

To Joshua was given the right to enquire of Urim and Thummim, coming to the High Priest in whose breastpouch they were, and arranging for their use. He was thus to replace Moses as God’s mouthpiece to the people. And whatever he decreed they would do. At his word they would come in, and at his word they would go out. They would go in and out together.

But we note here that even Joshua would not enter the Dwellingplace and hear the voice of Yahweh speaking from the Mercy Seat between the cherubim (Numbers 7:89). That was unique to Moses alone. Joshua would have to use the Urim and Thummim.

Numbers 27:22

‘And Moses did as Yahweh commanded him, and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation,’

And Moses did exactly as Yahweh told him. He took Joshua and set him before Eleazar ‘the Priest’, and before all the congregation.

Note again that Moses did exactly what Yahweh commanded him. This refrain occurs again and again. It demonstrates why what happened at the rock at Meribah was such an appalling failure. It had been an aberration. There he had not done what Yahweh commanded him.

Numbers 27:23

‘And he laid his hands on him, and gave him a charge, as Yahweh spoke by Moses.’

And Moses laid his hands on him and charged him with his responsibility to lead the people as Yahweh’s shepherd, just as Yahweh had said to him. Even before Moses was dead God was ready to move forward.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Numbers 27:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/numbers-27.html. 2013.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology