Bible Commentary: Numbers 27

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Numbers 27

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Inheritance Law; Joshua to Succeed Moses 

Zelophehad died in the wilderness, not having disqualified himself in the great sins of Korah, or the Moabites, or any such thing, without any sons to receive an inheritance. So his daughters make the unusual appeal recorded in this chapter. And though it is contrary to the social mores of the day for women to inherit land, their case makes sense, prompting Moses to take the matter before God. God's response is that Zelophehad's daughters are right—and He gives Moses an additional judgment, adding to the previous law. Thus, the daughters are to receive an inheritance. We will see more on this matter in chapter 36.

God then reaffirms to Moses that he will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land because he rebelled at God's command when he struck the rock to bring forth water (verse 14; compare Numbers 20:12). Moses, as so often before, thinks only of the people rather than himself. He says, "They are going to need a leader" (compare verse 17). So God commands Moses to ordain Joshua, a man with God's Spirit in him (verse 18). Though Joshua is to be "over the congregation" (verse 16) to lead them as a shepherd (verse 17), he is not to be a supreme one-man ruler with unlimited authority. He will not even have the degree of authority Moses has. Each time Joshua needs to know the will of God, he is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will seek God's answer "by the judgment of the Urim" (verse 21). Indeed, it should be noted that no other human figure of the Old Testament will be given the degree of authority Moses is invested with. As God's special prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15; Numbers 12:6-8), Israel's chief human "judge" (Acts 7:35; Exodus 18:13-26), and the mediator of the Old Covenant (compare Galatians 3:19-20), no one would truly fill his shoes until Jesus Christ Himself arrived (compare Deuteronomy 34:10; Deuteronomy 18:15-19).