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(MT versing)
A Law of Inheritance Inheritance Laws Inheritance of Property by Women The Daughters of Zelophehad The Inheritance of Daughters
27:1-5 27:1-5 27:1-4 27:1-4 27:1-4
27:5-11 27:5-11 27:5-11
27:6-11 27:6-11
Joshua the Next Leader of Israel Joshua Commissioned to Succeed Moses Joshua Is Chosen as Successor to Moses Joshua the Head of the Community
27:12-14 27:12-14 27:12-23 27:12-14 27:12-14
Joshua to Succeed Moses
27:15-23 27:15-17 27:15-17 27:15-21
27:18-23 27:18-23

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.

BRIEF OUTLINE (Numbers 27-30)

  1. Inheritance rights for daughters, Num. 27:1-7.

  2. Moses prays for a successor (i.e., Joshua), Num. 27:12-23.

  3. Various sacrifices, Numbers 28
    1. The continual
    2. Sabbath days
    3. New Moons
    4. Passover
    5. First Fruits
    6. Feast of Weeks

  4. The feast of the seventh month, Numbers 29.
    1. Blowing of trumpets
    2. Day of Atonement
    3. Feast of Booths

  5. Special restrictions on vows, Numbers 30.
    1. a man
    2. a young woman living at home
    3. an engaged woman
    4. a widow or divorced woman
    5. a wife


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the Lord in the company of Korah; but he died in his own sin, and he had no sons. 4Why should the name of our father be withdrawn from among his family because he had no son?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." 5So Moses brought their case before the Lord.

27:1 "Then the daughters of Zelophehad" This particular event is also discussed in Num. 26:33; Numbers 36; and Josh. 17:3.

27:2 This shows three different levels or types of leadership: (1) Moses and Eleazar; (2) the elders; and (3) all of the congregation. This same type of three-leveled authority structure can be seen in the NT between apostles, elders, and the entire congregation. It seems that all three polity types, episcopal, presbyterian, and congregational, have their different proof texts and spheres of influence within the biblical material. See notes online on Acts 15:2.

27:3 "but he died in his own sin, and he had no sons" Calvin points out the great faith of these young girls:

  1. The wars for the Promised Land had not even begun but they were confident that God would give their people the land.
  2. Their affirmation of their father's sin shows that they did not question God's justice or fairness concerning the wilderness wandering.

Some have asserted that the reason they mention that their father was not involved in Korah's rebellion is that possibly those who were killed or banished from the camp because of this apostasy forfeited their inheritance rights as well as their property. The further complication about who these girls could marry is discussed in Numbers 36.

One wonders what "sin" the daughter is referring to.

  1. part of the generation that did not accept the spies' report
  2. those who took part in the unauthorized invasion after YHWH's pronounced judgment
  3. some unknown personal sin that resulted in no male heirs
  4. just a way of emphatically asserting he was not part of the rebellion against Moses' and Aaron's leadership (i.e., Jewish tradition)

27:5-11 "So Moses brought their case before the Lord" This is extremely important because it shows that Moses is not simply giving his own opinion but that the Bible is the revelation of God. It also shows the probable way in which laws were developed. YHWH gave a general law about a subject and when exceptions or a need to adjust that law came up, they were brought back before the Lord (i.e., Num. 9:8; 15:34).

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.'"

27:7 "You shall surely give. . ." This is the intensified grammatical feature (an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and an IMPERFECT VERB from the same root, BDB 678, KB 733). This is YHWH's strong affirmation of the daughters' inheritance rights!

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.)

27:12 "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" The "mountain of Abarim" is an interesting phrase because it contains one of the names of the sons of Reuben (cf. Num. 16:1). Some have asserted that it is simply a similar name (BDB 260, cf. Num. 33:47) and there is no correspondence. This is possible but the land in which it is located happens to be the tribal allocation of the sons of Reuben. Maybe this mountain was later named after one of these boys as a memorial of some type. This same mountain also is called "Pisgah" in Deut. 34:1 and Num. 21:20 and "Mount Nebo" in Num. 33:47; Deut. 32:49. This will be the high mountain from which Moses will be allowed by God to see the Promised Land before he dies.

Some say that the reason this section is included here is because Moses, after the positive request of the daughters of Zelophehad was answered, made his petition one more time to the Lord about his own ban from the Promised Land (cf. Num. 20:2-13).

27:13 "you too will be gathered to your people" Aaron died earlier (cf. Num. 20:24) and this same phrase is used. It seems to imply a belief in some type of family reunion and fellowship after death (i.e., Gen. 25:8, 17; 35:29; 49:29, 33; Num. 31:2; Deut. 32:56). The older parts of the OT seem to assume a conscious but joyless existence in Sheol. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WHERE ARE THE DEAD?.

27:14 "in the wilderness of Zin" This is the account mentioned in Num. 20:2-13 and Deut. 3:23-27, where Moses, in his anger at the grumbling of the people, struck the rock instead of speaking to it. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WILDERNESSES OF THE EXODUS.

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." 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.

27:16 "the God of the spirits of all flesh" A similar phrase is used in Num. 16:22; see note there.

This is the Hebrew word ruah (BDB 924, KB 1197), which seems to speak of "wind," "spirit," or "breath." Here, it seems to imply that God is the source of all life, which is the implication of the name YHWH, which comes from the Hebrew VERB "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:14).


▣ "appoint a man over the congregation" Here, Moses asks for a successor to guide the Israelites. We are not sure how this request is related to Deut. 18:15, where Moses prays for a prophet like himself, which seems to be a Messianic (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MESSIAH) reference. This particular account refers to Joshua. See SPECIAL TOPIC: PROPHECY IN THE OT.

27:17 "who will go out and come in before them" There has been some difference of opinion on this Hebrew phrase. Some assume that it refers to daily activity, while others believe it has a military connotation (cf. Josh. 14:11; 1 Kgs. 22:17).

It is obvious in this verse that the pastoral metaphor is used; this metaphor is found often, not only in the OT (i.e., 1 Kgs. 22:17; 2 Chr. 18:16; Psalm 23; 80:1; Isa. 40:11; 44:28; Zechariah 10; 11), but also in the NT (cf. John 10; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 2:25).

"Shepherd" was a royal title in the ANE.

  1. YHWH ‒ Gen. 48:15; 49:24; Ezek. 34:11-31
  2. David ‒ 2 Sam. 5:2
  3. Nebuchadnezzar (i.e., Babylon) ‒ Jer. 43:12
  4. Sin-Shar-Ishkun (Assyrian) ‒ Nah. 3:18
  5. Cyrus II (Persia) ‒ Isa. 44:28
  6. Messiah ‒ Zech. 10:2-3; 13:7-9 (Ezek. 34:11-31 is imagery of the Messiah)

27:18 "a man in whom is the Spirit" It is unfortunate to use a strong dichotomy between the Spirit in the OT and the Spirit in the New. There is a distinction between the OT use of "spirit." In the OT it is a way to asssert YHWH acting in the world but in the NT, the Spirit becomes

  2. a divine person ‒ See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY

▣ "lay your hand on him" It is also interesting to note that the Spirit did not come to Joshua by the laying on of hands but was already present (cf. Num. 11:25-29; Deut. 34:9). The laying on of hands is to be identified and defined by means of the sacrificial system. When a man laid hands on an animal it became his substitute or was identified with that man. Joshua became identified as the successor of Moses. See SPECIAL TOPIC: LAYING ON OF HANDS IN THE BIBLE.

27:19 "commission him in their sight" This VERB (BDB 845, KB 1010) in the Piel stem means "to give someone authority or charge." It is used often in the OT (BDB gives five major connotations with several items under each).

In this context, Moses' leadership will pass to Joshua.

  1. stand before Eleazar, Num. 27:19
  2. stand before all the congregation, Num. 27:19
  3. commission him in their sight, Num. 2:19
  4. put some of your authority (i.e., from YHWH) on him, Num. 27:20
  5. for the purpose of commanding all Israel, Num. 27:20,21
  6. inquire of Urim and Thummim, Num. 27:21; (see SPECIAL TOPIC: URIM AND THUMMIM

27:20-21 "put some of your authority on him" There will be a difference in how YHWH speaks to Moses and how He will speak to Joshua. In Num. 27:21 we see that instead of YHWH speaking directly to Joshua on every occasion, he must go to the High Priest and consult the Urim and Thummim to discern God's will (cf. Exod. 28:30; Lev. 8:8).

27:20 The word "authority" (BDB 217, KB 241) means

  1. splendor (linked with BDB 214 in Ps. 21:5; 96:6; 109:1)
  2. majesty (KB)
  3. vigor (cf. Pro. 5:9; Dan. 10:8)
  4. BDB #3b, "majesty, dignity, authority of Moses"

It is used as a descriptive title for

  1. YHWH ‒ Ps. 8:1; 45:3-4; 104:1
  2. Solomon ‒ 1 Chr. 29:25
  3. Josiah ‒ Jer. 22:18
  4. Messiah ‒ Ps. 21:5; Zech. 6:12-13

Moses bore and represented YHWH's person, power, and presence. The LXX, Peshitta, and Vulgate translate it "glory."

27:22 This verse highlights Moses' obedience, which was the hallmark of his leadership.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. How does Num. 27:1-11 show how laws developed in ancient Israel?
  2. What sin did Zelophehad's father commit?
  3. Where is Mt. Abarim?
  4. Why was Moses not allowed to lead Israel into Canaan?
  5. What does the divine title "the God of the spirits of all flesh" imply?
  6. What did laying on of hands imply?

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