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Thursday, June 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 27

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-11

The inheritance of women in the land 27:1-11

The writer probably included this incident in the text because it resulted in a further definition of the laws governing inheritance in the land in a common situation. It also shows the faith of these women. They believed God would bring them into the land. Furthermore it reveals the fairness and compassion of God in His provision for these women whose father had died in the wilderness.

Normally when a father died, his sons divided his property with the eldest receiving a double portion. Daughters did not receive an inheritance other than their dowry. The dowry was a substantial present their father gave them when they married. The term dowry also refers to a gift the groom gave to his father-in-law when he married his daughter.

Notice that after Moses heard the women’s complaint he took their case to the Lord (Numbers 27:5). This is another mark of Moses’ spiritual leadership.

God decreed that in Israel when a man had no sons his daughters would divide his property (Numbers 27:8). If he had neither sons nor daughters, the father’s nearest relative would receive his inheritance (Numbers 27:9-11). Later (ch. 36) the Lord placed a restriction on daughters who inherited their father’s estate. They had to marry within their own tribe to keep the inheritance within that tribe as it would have remained if the father had had sons.

This passage is interesting because it shows how case law developed in Israel. When a situation not covered by existing laws arose, like this one, the people involved would go to Moses and the high priest who would inquire of God. God would reveal what the people should do. This revelation then became precedent for similar cases that might arise later.

Verses 1-23

2. Provisions and commands to observe in preparation for entering the land chs. 27-30

"Just as the censuses of chs. 1, 3, and 4 led to a flurry of preparations for departure from Sinai, so the second censuses in ch. 26 lead to preparations for departure from the plains of Moab and entry into the land of Canaan." [Note: Ashley, p. 547.]

Verses 12-23

Moses’ successor 27:12-23

Another preparation for entering Canaan involved appointing a new leader to take Moses’ place.

God foretold that Moses would die without entering the land (cf. Numbers 20:1-13). Graciously He allowed His servant to see the Promised Land from Mt. Nebo (Deuteronomy 32:48-52). Nebo was one of the mountains of the Abarim range that runs north and south just east of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea in Moab’s territory. Pisgah (Numbers 21:20; Deuteronomy 3:27; Deuteronomy 34:1) is the name of the northern part of this mountain range. The plains of Moab sloped down from the Abarim mountains toward the Jordan River.

Moses’ reaction to God’s announcement of his death was admirable. He did not panic like King Saul (1 Samuel 28:20) or even pray for a few more years like King Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:1-3). Instead he prayed for the welfare of Israel, the nation that had caused him so much grief. Many leaders prefer to select their successor, but Moses asked God to make this crucial choice. In so doing he gave practical testimony to his acceptance of Yahweh’s sovereignty over Israel.

Joshua was a likely choice since he had served Moses and worked closely with him for years. Most importantly, as one of the two loyal spies, he was a man of faith. Moses laid his hands on him (Numbers 27:18) symbolically imputing his authority to him.

"This spirit was not something that now came upon Joshua, or was temporary (such as the coming of the spirit on the elders in Numbers 11:17; Numbers 11:25-26); it already existed in Joshua and was the basis of God’s choice of him. Deuteronomy 34:9 applies the phrase ’full of the spirit of Wisdom’ to Joshua, confirming the thought here." [Note: Ibid., p. 552.]

Joshua served as an associate leader of Israel with and under Moses from this time until Moses died (Numbers 27:20). When Joshua began sole leadership he functioned differently from Moses. Whereas God had given Moses directions for Israel "face to face," Joshua would normally receive his divine guidance through the high priest who would obtain this by using the Urim and Thummim. Only rarely did the Lord speak to Joshua directly.

Conflict for the leadership of Israel occurred frequently in the later history of the Northern Kingdom following the split between Judah and Israel. Moses wisely anticipated the problems that might arise if God removed him before the Lord had identified his successor. Therefore he interceded again, and again God granted his request by identifying Joshua at this time. This action by Moses was extremely important because it precluded countless problems for Israel that might have arisen when Moses died.

"The portrayal of Moses’ passing his authority (splendor or majesty) over to Joshua and Joshua’s reception of the Spirit is noticeably similar to the transition of prophetic office from Elijah to Elisha in 2 Kings 2:7-15. It appears that the writer of the book of Kings has intentionally worked some of these themes into his narrative to draw out the comparison. . . . The type of leadership exhibited by Moses and Joshua is the same as that of Elijah and Elisha. It is a leadership that is guided by the Spirit of God." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., pp. 412-13.]

Moses secured the Israelites’ commitment to Yahweh at Mt. Sinai, and Elijah revived it during Israel’s worst apostasy. Both men and their immediate successors, Joshua and Elisha, also had the gift of performing miracles.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Numbers 27". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/numbers-27.html. 2012.
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