1 - 4 The Daughters of Zelophehad
1 Then 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. 2 They 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LORD in the company of Korah; but he died in his own sin, and he had no sons. 4 Why should the name of our father be withdrawn from among his family because he had no son?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 17:3-4). 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 7). 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 20:5; 34:7). 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.
5 - 11 Statutory Ordinance If Someone Has No Son
5 So Moses brought their case before the LORD. 6 Then 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. 8 Further, 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. 9 If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11 If 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.
12 - 14 Moses Is Allowed to See the Land
12 Then 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. 13 When you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother was; 14 for 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 34:1-6).
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.
15 - 17 Moses Asks for a Successor
15 Then Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, 16 “May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, 17 who 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 them by giving workers. The Lord Jesus urges us to do so (Mt 9:36-38).
Moses does not ask for someone who knows everything well, but for someone who leads the people visibly and trustworthily. He addresses his request to the “LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh”, an expression which he has used before (Num 16:22). 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 1:24a). With this expression Moses indicates the sovereignty of God. He wishes God to use His sovereignty to give His people the shepherd they need.
18 - 23 Joshua Succeeds Moses
18 So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; 19 and have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and commission him in their sight. 20 You shall put some of your authority on him, in order that all the congregation of the sons of Israel may obey [him]. 21 Moreover, 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.” 22 Moses did just as the LORD commanded him; and he took Joshua and set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation. 23 Then 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 12:2). 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 16:7).
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 16:13-15).
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.
Numbers 28-29 are only easy to understand when we see that we are dealing with a people who have come to the end of the wilderness journey. The feasts we find in these chapters and in connection with which the sacrifices are made are also found in Exodus 23, Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16.
In each bible book they are viewed from a different angle:
1. In Exodus 23 the feasts are connected with the law, the rights of God.
2. In Leviticus 23 the emphasis is on the feasts themselves and the significance they have for the Israelites; they prophetically represent the history of God’s people.
3. In Deuteronomy 16 it is about the time that the people are in the land and the feasts are in a special connection with “the place where the LORD chooses to establish His name” (Deu 16:2).
4. In Numbers 28-29 the accent is on the offerings brought during the feasts. These are offerings of which God says: “My offering, My food for My offerings by fire, of a soothing aroma to Me” (Num 28:2).
These two chapters are full of sacrifices. They all represent Christ in His Person and His work. Christ and His offering are all for God’s heart. He wishes it to be the same with us. Therefore, He commands us to come up with these offerings, that is, to tell Him about the different aspects of His Son’s offering that emerge in the various offerings.
In the wilderness the people are not ready for these offerings. Now that they are at the end of the wilderness journey and are just in front of the land, they are spiritually ripe for it. In view of the land, God is going to tell His people what He wants them to do there: He wants them to bring offerings to Him there. The old generation died in the wilderness. He addresses himself to a new people and speaks to them about the wishes of his heart towards the Lord Jesus, for all offerings speak of him.
Numbers is about the wilderness journey. The meaning of this is the life of God’s people on earth as a place of trial. But the earth will not always remain a place of trial. For there will come a time when the earth will be the resting-place for God’s people. The offerings God speaks about with His people here refer to that time.