Numbers
1-4 The Daughters of Zelophehad 5-11 Statutory Ordinance If Someone Has No Son 12-14 Moses Is Allowed to See the Land 15-17 Moses Asks for a Successor 18-23 Joshua Succeeds Moses
The Daughters of Zelophehad

1Then 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, came near; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah and Hoglah and Milcah and Tirzah. 2They stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the leaders and all the congregation, at the doorway of the tent of meeting, saying, 3“Our father died in the wilderness, yet he was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah; but he died in his own sin, and he had no sons. 4Why should the name of our father be withdrawn from among his family because he had no son? Give us a possession among our father’s brothers.”

The daughters of Zelophehad are an illustration of what is written about the inheritance in the previous chapter. They belong to a family that is entitled to a portion of the land. Their father has died and they have no brother. This means that the inheritance of their family will be lost. But the inheritance is too precious for them. They go with this problem to Moses and present it to him and the others who are present at the doorway of the tent of meeting. The women walk right through the camp and appear in the center of the religion. With their question they openly testify of their desires in that place.

With a boldness inherent to faith, they ask for a solution. Thereby they count on the goodness of God. And not in vain. When they are in the land, they ask Eleazar for their inheritance with an appeal to what the LORD has said to Moses (Jos 17:3-43However, Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, only daughters; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah.4They came near before Eleazar the priest and before Joshua the son of Nun and before the leaders, saying, “The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.” So according to the command of the LORD he gave them an inheritance among their father’s brothers.). The whole performance of the women and its result proves that women are not a disadvantaged group for God. He rewards the faith of women as much as of men.

The five women form a great contrast to the whole tenor of grumbling, complaining and revolt of the people during the wilderness journey. The people have always expressed a longing for what they have left behind in Egypt. These women are looking forward. They are the first to show a longing for the promised land. They show a feeling with which the LORD fully agrees (verse 77“The daughters of Zelophehad are right in [their] statements. You shall surely give them a hereditary possession among their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer the inheritance of their father to them.). He greatly appreciates our desires for the rich blessings He has prepared for us in heaven.

In these women we see not only trust in the goodness of God, but also strength of faith with a view to taking possession of the inheritance. Getting something promised is one thing, actually making it your property is another. These women know what they want.

They also show respect for their deceased father. He died, but not as a rebel. At the same time, their affection for him does not make them blind to his failure. They agree with God’s judgment on him. He died for his own sin. It was not a sin that God had to visit on his daughters (cf. Exo 20:55You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,; 34:77who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave [the guilty] unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”). He has borne the consequences of his actions. But that doesn’t make him despised in their eyes. He will have been a good father, with his shortcomings. They do not wish that his name will be erased, but that it will continue to exist. God appreciates this respect.


Statutory Ordinance If Someone Has No Son

5So Moses brought their case before the LORD. 6Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 7“The daughters of Zelophehad are right in [their] statements. You shall surely give them a hereditary possession among their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer the inheritance of their father to them. 8Further, you shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter. 9If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. 10If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11If his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his nearest relative in his own family, and he shall possess it; and it shall be a statutory ordinance to the sons of Israel, just as the LORD commanded Moses.’”

When the women have come to Moses with their question, he takes their question seriously. This is an unprecedented case. Moses has no ready-made answer. He is not ashamed of that. He knows where to go with his question. He goes with it to the LORD and receives an answer. Whoever approaches Him in confidence will always receive an answer.

If you count on the goodness of God, you always get more than you have asked. To the question of the five sisters comes an answer that means a blessing for the whole people. The LORD determines who gets the inheritance if someone has no son. If the manly element is missing, that is to say in the application that the spiritual energy has disappeared, that does not mean that there is nothing more to enjoy. Then the Lord gives other possibilities.

We never have to sit back when, spiritually speaking, the family is incomplete. Even if we only meet with a few in all weakness, we as members of the family of God may enjoy together all that has been given to us in Christ as blessings. We do not need to lose (the enjoyment of) our inheritance.

In the last chapter of this book, in Numbers 36, this ordinance is discussed further. There, in response to a new question, it is stipulated that daughters who are entitled to an inheritance may not marry outside their tribe.


Moses Is Allowed to See the Land

12Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go up to this mountain of Abarim, and see the land which I have given to the sons of Israel. 13When you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother was; 14for in the wilderness of Zin, during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against My command to treat Me as holy before their eyes at the water.” (These are the waters of Meribah of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.)

Moses will not be allowed to enter the land because of his sin. He will soon have to die. The LORD reminds him of this. Before the LORD speaks to him about his death and the sin that caused it, he speaks to Moses about seeing the land that the Israelites will take possession of. In this way He soothes the pain of judgment and makes it easier for Moses to reconcile with God’s policy. Moses gets the satisfaction of seeing the land. In Deuteronomy 34 it is told that he sees it and how he dies (Deu 34:1-61Now Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan,2and all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the western sea,3and the Negev and the plain in the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar.4Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see [it] with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.”5So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.6And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day.).

The LORD says to Moses that he, like his brother, will be gathered his people. Moses saw Aaron die. With what words will he have encouraged his brother? Now he is reminded. He and his ancestors will wait in the grave for the fulfillment of the whole plan of salvation of God.


Moses Asks for a Successor

15Then Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, 16“May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, 17who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD will not be like sheep which have no shepherd.”

There is no bitterness or jealousy at all with Moses. He does fall into self-pity. He is not concerned with his end. His heart continues to go out to God’s people. In their favor, he asks for a successor. He adds a ‘profile’: it must be a shepherd who cares about the sheep. With this we see with Moses the same as with the Lord Jesus. When we see the need among God’s people, we will pray that the Lord will provide for it by giving workers. The Lord Jesus urges us to do so (Mt 9:36-3836Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.37Then He *said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.38Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”).

Moses does not ask for someone who knows everything well, but for someone who leads the people visibly and trustworthy. He addresses his request to the “LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh”, an expression which he has used before (Num 16:2222But they fell on their faces and said, “O God, God of the spirits of all flesh, when one man sins, will You be angry with the entire congregation?”). He Who is the God of the covenant with his people is also the One Who knows what goes on in the spirit of every man (cf. Acts 1:24a24And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen). With this expression Moses indicates the sovereignty of God. He wishes God uses His sovereignty to give His people the shepherd they need.


Joshua Succeeds Moses

18So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; 19and have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and commission him in their sight. 20You shall put some of your authority on him, in order that all the congregation of the sons of Israel may obey [him]. 21Moreover, he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the LORD. At his command they shall go out and at his command they shall come in, [both] he and the sons of Israel with him, even all the congregation.” 22Moses did just as the LORD commanded him; and he took Joshua and set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation. 23Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses.

Moses receives an immediate response to his request. The answer shows that what he has asked is God’s thoughts. Joshua will be the successor of Moses. Moses must lay his hand on him in the presence of Eleazar and all the people. Everyone must witness that Joshua will have the same position as Moses and, as a result, the same authority.

During the thirty-eight years of the wilderness journey we hear nothing of Joshua. But God knows him and has shaped him. He knows what spirit is present in him: in Joshua the Spirit of God is present. Moses has led the people through the wilderness. Joshua will bring the people into the land. Moses is a picture of the Lord Jesus as the One Who shows His people, the church, the way through the wilderness. Joshua is a picture of the Lord Jesus Who introduces His heavenly people in the Spirit into the heavenly blessings.

Moses and Joshua form a unity. That makes the laying on of hands clear. In them we see the Lord Jesus as “the author [Moses] and perfecter [Joshua] of faith” (Heb 12:22fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.). Moses has redeemed God’s people from Egypt. The Lord Jesus redeemed His people from the power of sin. By His death, resurrection, and ascension He made way for the Spirit (Jn 16:77But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.).

Joshua brings the people into the land. The Lord Jesus does this now through His Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit He makes the church familiar with everything of Himself and the blessings of the heavenly places: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose [it] to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose [it] to you” (Jn 16:13-1513But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.14He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose [it] to you.15All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose [it] to you.).

Aaron is succeeded by Eleazar. They too are both a picture of the Lord Jesus. Aaron is the picture of the Lord Jesus as the One Who carries His people through the wilderness on His shoulders (a picture of strength) and on His chest (a picture of love). Eleazar presents the Lord Jesus as the High Priest who represents His people in heaven.

Moses and Aaron are connected to each other for the liberation from Egypt. Joshua and Eleazar are connected for the entry into the land. Joshua stands before Eleazar, as if he is subordinate to him. It expresses that leadership is always subject to priesthood. A person can never be a good leader if he is not a good priest.

The fact that Joshua stands before Eleazar also expresses the fact that taking possession of the land under the guidance of Joshua depends on the high priest. We see in it the picture that everything we can enjoy of the heavenly blessings through the Spirit is based on the intercession of the Lord Jesus as High Priest. Joshua is dependent on the priesthood for his advancement. Thus the presence and working of the Holy Spirit depends on the presence of Christ in the holy place.

Through Eleazar the will of God can be known. The urim is with him, which means ‘lights’. Divine light about the manner of taking possession of the land is obtained from the Lord Jesus as the High Priest. What He makes clear can then be done in the power of the Spirit.


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