Numbers 27

Special Inheritance Laws

For additional information on this section, see N. H. Snaith, “The Daughters of Zelophehad,” VT 16 (1966): 124-27; and J. Weingreen, “The Case of the Daughters of Zelophehad,” VT 16 (1966): 518-22.
Then the daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh of the families of Manasseh,
The phrase “of the families of Manasseh” is absent from the Latin Vulgate.
the son Joseph came forward. Now these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.
2And they stood before Moses and Eleazar the priest and the leaders of the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said, 3“Our father died in the wilderness, although
This clause begins with a vav (ו) on a pronoun, marking it out as a disjunctive vav. In this context it fits best to take it as a circumstantial clause introducing concession.
he was not part of
Heb “in the midst of.”
the company of those that gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah; but he died for his own sin,
The word order is emphatic: “but in/on account of his own sins he died.”
and he had no sons.
4Why should the name of our father be lost from among his family because he had no son? Give us a possession
That is, the possession of land, or property, among the other families of their tribe.
among the relatives
The word is “brothers,” but this can be interpreted more loosely to relatives. So also in v. 7.
of our father.”

5 So Moses brought their case before the Lord. 6The Lord said to Moses: 7“The daughters of Zelophehad have a valid claim.
Heb “[the daughters of Zelophehad] speak right” (using the participle דֹּבְרֹת [doverot] with כֵּן [ken]).
You must indeed
The Hebrew text uses the infinitive absolute with the imperfect tense. The imperfect is functioning as the imperfect of instruction, and so the infinitive strengthens the force of the instruction.
give them possession of an inheritance among their father’s relatives, and you must transfer
The verb is the Hiphil perfect with a vav (ו) consecutive, from the root עָבַר (’avar, “to pass over”). Here it functions as the equivalent of the imperfect of instruction: “and you shall cause to pass,” meaning, “transfer.”
the inheritance of their father to them.
8And you must tell the Israelites, ‘If a man dies
Heb “a man, if he dies.”
and has no son, then you must transfer his inheritance to his daughter;
9and if he has no daughter, then you are to give his inheritance to his brothers; 10and if he has no brothers, then you are to give his inheritance to his father’s brothers; 11and if his father has no brothers, then you are to give his inheritance to his relative nearest to him from his family, and he will possess it. This will be for the Israelites a legal requirement,
The expression is חֻקַּת מִשְׁפָּט (khuqqat mishpat, “a statute of judgment”), which means it is a fixed enactment that determines justice. It is one which is established by God.
as the Lord commanded Moses.’”

Leadership Change

See further J. Lindblom, “Lot Casting in the Old Testament,” VT 12 (1962): 164-78; E. Lipinski, “Urim and Thummim,” VT 20 (1970): 495-96; and S. E. Loewenstamm, “The Death of Moses,” Tarbiz 27 (1957/58): 142-57.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim range,
The Greek version adds “which is Mount Nebo.” This is a typical scribal change to harmonize two passages.
The area is in the mountains of Moab; Deut 34:1 more precisely identifies it as Mount Nebo.
and see
The imperative could be subordinated to the first to provide a purpose clause, although a second instruction fits well enough.
the land I have given
This perfect tense would best be classified as a perfect of resolve: “which I have decided to give.” God had not yet given the land to them, but it was certain he would.
to the Israelites.
13When you have seen it, you will be gathered
The first verb is a perfect tense with a vav (ו) consecutive, and the second verb is also. In such parallel clauses, the first may be subordinated, here as a temporal clause.
to your ancestors,
Heb “people.”
as Aaron your brother was gathered to his ancestors.
Heb “was gathered.” The phrase “to his ancestors” is elided in the Hebrew text, but is an implied repetition from the beginning of the verse, and has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
The preposition on the relative pronoun has the force of “because of the fact that.”
in the wilderness of Zin when the community rebelled against me, you
The verb is the second masculine plural form.
rebelled against my command
Heb “mouth.”
to show me as holy
Using the basic meaning of the word קָדַשׁ (qadash, “to be separate, distinct, set apart”), we can understand better what Moses failed to do. He was supposed to have acted in a way that would have shown God to be distinct, different, holy. Instead, he gave the impression that God was capricious and hostile – very human. The leader has to be aware of what image he is conveying to the people.
before their eyes over the water – the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.”

15 Then Moses spoke to the Lord: 16“Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all humankind,
Heb “flesh”; cf. NAB, NIV “all mankind”; NCV “all people”; NLT “all living things.”
This is the same verb פָּקַד (paqad) that is used throughout the book for the aspect of “numbering” the people.
a man over the community,
17who will go out before them, and who will come in before them,
This is probably technical terminology for a military leader (Josh 14:11; 1 Sam 18:13–16; 1 Kgs 3:7; 2 Kgs 11:9). The image of a shepherd can also be military in nature (1 Kgs 22:17).
and who will lead them out, and who will bring them in, so that
The Hebrew text has the conjunction with the negated imperfect tense, “and it will not be.” This clause should be subordinated to the preceding to form a result clause, and the imperfect then function as a final imperfect.
the community of the Lord may not be like sheep that have no shepherd.”

18 The Lord replied
Or “said.”
to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is such a spirit,
The word “spirit” probably refers to the Holy Spirit, in which case it would be rendered “in whom is the Spirit.” This would likely be a permanent endowment for Joshua. But it is also possible to take it to refer to a proper spirit to do all the things required of such a leader (which ultimately is a gift from the Spirit of God). The Hebrew text simply says “in whom is a spirit.”
and lay your hand on him;
This symbolic act would indicate the transfer of leadership to Joshua.
19set him
This could be translated “position him,” or “have him stand,” since it is the causative stem of the verb “to stand.”
before Eleazar the priest and before the whole community, and commission
The verb is the Piel perfect of צִוָּה (tsivvah, literally “to command”). The verb has a wide range of meanings, and so here in this context the idea of instructing gives way to a more general sense of commissioning for duty. The verb in sequence is equal to the imperfect of instruction.
him publicly.
Heb “in their eyes.”
20Then you must delegate
The verb is simply “give,” but in this context giving some of Moses’ honor to Joshua in the presence of the people is essentially passing the leadership to him, or delegating the authority to him with the result that people would follow him.
some of your authority
The Greek, Syriac, and Vulgate read “glory” for this form that occurs only here in the Pentateuch. Elsewhere it is rendered “majesty, splendor” (see Ps 96:6). It could even be “vitality” here. The authority being transferred here is both spiritual and civil.
to him, so that the whole community of the Israelites will be obedient.
Heb “hear.”
21And he will stand before Eleazar the priest, who
The passage simply has “and he will ask,” but Eleazar is clearly the subject now.
will seek counsel
Heb “ask.”
for him before the Lord by the decision of the Urim.
The new leader would not have the privilege that Moses had in speaking to God face to face. Rather, he would have to inquire of the Lord through the priest, and the priest would seek a decision by means of the Urim. The Urim and the Thummim were the sacred lots that the priest had in his pouch, the “breastplate” as it has traditionally been called. Since the Law had now been fully established, there would be fewer cases that the leader would need further rulings. Now it would simply be seeking the Lord’s word for matters such as whether to advance or not. The size, shape or substance of these objects is uncertain. See further C. Van Dam, The Urim and Thummim.
At his command
Heb “mouth,” meaning what he will say.
they will go out, and at his command they will come in, he and all the Israelites with him, the whole community.”

22 So Moses did as the Lord commanded him; he took Joshua and set
Heb “stood.”
him before Eleazar the priest and before the whole community.
23He laid his hands on him and commissioned him, just as the Lord commanded,
Heb “spoke.”
by the authority
Heb “hand.”
of Moses.

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