Then came 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: and these are the names of his daughters; Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah.
And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,Numbers 27:2. Before the princes — By princes, it seems, are meant the heads of the tribes, or the highest of the judges appointed Exodus 18:25, called there the heads of the people; and by all the congregation is intended the seventy elders or representatives of the people, Numbers 11:24. At the head of all these sat Moses, and next to him the high-priest. By the door of the tabernacle — Nigh unto which, it appears, was the place where Moses and the chief rulers assembled for the administration of public affairs. This was very convenient, because they had frequent occasion of having recourse to God for his direction.
Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons.Numbers 27:3. But died in his own sin — The sin for which he alone was to suffer in his person, and not in his posterity, meaning, as some think, that incredulity for which all that generation was sentenced to die in the wilderness; and which, though, with respect to the rest of the people, it was not merely his own sin, since they were generally alike guilty; yet with respect to his children it was his own sin, a personal guilt, which God himself had declared should not affect his children, Numbers 14:31.
But, perhaps, by his dying in his own sin, we are only to understand that he died by a common ordinary death, not such a one as they shared who were partakers of the guilt of Korah and his companions.
Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father.Numbers 27:4. Be done away — As it will be, if it be not preserved by an inheritance given to us in his name and for his sake. Hence some gather, that the first son of each of these heiresses was called by their father’s name, by virtue of that law, (Deuteronomy 25:6,) by which the brother’s first son was to bear the name of his elder brother, whose widow he married. Give us a possession — In the land of Canaan, upon the division of it, which, though not yet conquered, they concluded would certainly be so, and thereby they gave glory to God.
And Moses brought their cause before the LORD.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father's brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them.Numbers 27:7. Cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them — They were to enjoy what would have fallen to their father’s share, had he been alive; because they stood in his place, and represented his person. Accordingly they had their portion in the land, Joshua 17:1-3, &c.
And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter.
And if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren.
And if he have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his father's brethren.Numbers 27:10-11. No brethren — Nor sisters, as appears from Numbers 27:8. A statute of judgment — A standing law or rule, whereby to judge of succession to inheritances in all future times, and whereby the magistrates should give judgment in such cases.
And if his father have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it: and it shall be unto the children of Israel a statute of judgment, as the LORD commanded Moses.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel.Numbers 27:12. Abarim — The whole tract of mountains was called Abarim, whereof one of the highest was called Nebo, and the top of that Pisgah.
And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered.Numbers 27:13. Thou shalt be gathered unto thy people — Moses must die; but death does not cut him off; it only gathers him to his people, brings him to rest with the holy patriarchs that were gone before him. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were his people, the people of his choice, and to them death gathered him.
For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that is the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.
And Moses spake unto the LORD, saying,Numbers 27:15. And Moses spake unto the Lord — Concerning his successor.
We should concern ourselves both in our prayers and in our endeavours for the rising generation, that God’s kingdom may be advanced among men, when we are in our graves.
Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation,Numbers 27:16. The God of the spirits of all flesh — God of all men; the Searcher of spirits, that knowest who is fit for this great employment; the Father, and Giver, and Governor of spirits, who canst raise and suit the spirits of men to the highest and hardest works.
Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.Numbers 27:17. Go out before them — That is, who may wisely conduct them in all their affairs, both when they go forth to war, or upon other occasions, and when they return home and live in peace. A metaphor from shepherds, who in those places used not to go behind their sheep, as ours now do, but before them, and to lead them forth to their pasture, and, in due time, to lead them home again.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him;Numbers 27:18. In whom is the spirit — Or spiritual endowments from the Holy Ghost; for it is by the influence of the Spirit of God that all good gifts are communicated to the sons of men. It particularly means here, the spirit of wisdom, courage, and the fear of God, with other gifts necessary for a well-qualified governor. Hence Joshua is said to have been full of the spirit of wisdom, Deuteronomy 34:9. Lay thy hand upon him — By which ceremony Moses did both design the person and confer the power, and by his prayers, which accompanied that rite, obtain from God all the spiritual gifts and graces necessary for his future employment.
And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.Numbers 27:19. Before all the congregation — That they may be witnesses of the whole action, and may acknowledge him for their supreme ruler. Give him charge — Thou shalt give him counsels and instructions for the right management of that great trust.
And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient.Numbers 27:20. Put some of thine honour upon him — That is, communicate some of thy authority to him at present; no longer use him as a servant, but as a brother, and as thy associate in the government. This was enjoined in order that the people, being used to obey him while Moses lived, might do it afterward the more cheerfully.
And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.Numbers 27:21. Who shall ask counsel for him — When he requires him so to do, and in important and difficult matters. From this and similar passages, it appears that the authority of the judge, or chief magistrate in Israel, however great, was not arbitrary, since in great emergencies he was obliged to have recourse to the high-priest, who was to ask counsel for him at the oracle. And some weighty matters were proposed to the congregation and princes, or senate of Israel, for their consent or decision. After the judgment of Urim — It appears from several passages, particularly 1 Samuel 14:18; 1 Samuel 23:2; 1 Samuel 28:6; 1 Samuel 30:7; 2 Samuel 5:19, that the high-priest, in consulting the oracle, was clothed with the ephod, or the sacerdotal vestment, to which belonged the breast- plate, and the Urim and Thummim. Thus, when David wanted to consult the oracle, he said to the priest, Bring hither the ephod: see 1 Samuel 30:7. In this and other places God is said to have answered him, but in what manner we are not told, only it appears to have been by a voice, 1 Samuel 30:3. But who uttered that voice, is a question. Spencer is of opinion that it was God himself, or an angel acting by commission from God. Le Clerc again contends that it was the high-priest himself that pronounced the words, but that he spake by divine inspiration: see on Exodus 28:30. At his word shall they go out, &c. — That is, at the word of the Lord, delivered by the mouth of the priest. This shows the nature of the Jewish government, and that it is not without reason called a theocracy, or divine government; since no enterprise of moment was to be undertaken without first consulting the oracle of God by the priest. However, this is to be understood principally of their going out, or not going out, to war; upon which occasion chiefly the oracle was consulted, especially to know the event of it: see Jdg 1:1; Jdg 20:18; 1 Samuel 14:18; 1 Samuel 28:6. We may observe, that though Joshua was greatly inferior to Moses in this respect, he generally consulted God by the high- priest; whereas Moses had immediate access to God himself, and spake with him face to face; (Deuteronomy 34:10;) yet God sometimes vouchsafed the same honour to Joshua, and spake to him without the mediation of the priest: see Joshua 3:7; Joshua 4:1; Joshua 4:15; Joshua 5:13.
And Moses did as the LORD commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation:
And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.