From slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 27

As I mentioned in chapter 4 the standard pattern in Hebrew prose is a movement from the general to the specific, from the broad to the particular. This is demonstrated in chapters 1-4 of Numbers. The chapters have moved from the nation as a whole to the particular families of the one tribe that has the responsibility to maintain the symbols of Israel’s worship of Yahweh. Each chapter gets narrower in focus, with the central emphasis on the worship of Yahweh at the Tent of Meeting.

The tribe of Manasseh that had a clan with five woman and no men went to Moses and Eleazar at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. The leaders of the congregation were there as well. They explained that their father died in the wilderness during Korah’s rebellion, but he wasn’t part of Korah’s rebellion. He died without having any sons and his daughters didn’t want his clan to die out. They asked Moses and Aaron to give them the inheritance that would have gone to a son if there had been one.

Moses went to Yahweh for guidance and he told Moses to give them their father’s inheritance. He told Moses to make it a rule to give the inheritance to the daughter of any Israeli man who died without a son. If he had no sons and no daughters, the inheritance was to go to his brother if he had one, and to the nearest relative if he didn’t have a brother. The inheritance was to stay in the extended family.  Yahweh elevated equality to a position of supreme importance and made it the touchstone of Israeli identity.

Then Yahweh told Moses to climb the Abarim (Hebrew: הָעֲבָרִים, Ha-Avarim), a mountain range across Jordan, to the east and south-east of the Dead Sea, extending from Mount Nebo — its highest point — in the north, perhaps to the Arabian desert in the south.[1] He told Moses to look out at the land he was giving to Israel because he would be joining his brother Aaron. Yahweh reminded him that when the congregation complained in the wilderness of Zin Moses didn’t honor him in holy reverence before Israel in the matter of the Waters of Meribah (Quarreling) at Kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin.

Moses asked Yahweh to set someone over Israel to show them the way and lead them back home so they wouldn’t be like sheep without a shepherd.

Yahweh told him to take Joshua and place his hand on him. He said that his Spirit was already on Joshua but he wanted Moses to stand in front of Eleazar and the congregation and commission him with everyone watching. Moses was to publically pass his command over to Joshua so that the people of Israel would submissively acknowledge him as leader. He was to consult with Eleazar for prayerful advice but would be the commander-in – chief.

In order to be a good leader Joshua would have to depend on the cooperation and support of the congregation. He would have to position himself with the group rather than above it and stimulate national unity. The strength of his leadership would arise out of his symbiotic relationship with his followers within the priesthood – who represented the people. Israel’s social identity would help Israel to reach a consensus on what mattered to them. It would harmonize their actions with each other so their struggles would be toward the shared goal of possessing the Promised Land. Joshua would be able to lead the people because they had a shared national identity based on a common desire. Joshua belonged to Israel and was an example of what made them distinct from and superior to rival governments.[2]

Moses followed Yahweh’s orders and commissioned him in front of Eleazar and the congregation of Israel.


Summary of Chapter 27

The daughters of Zelophehad claimed their inheritance and Moses brought their case before Yahweh. Yahweh acknowledged their claim, and a law was made to regulate the inheritance of daughters. The specific case of these women produced a law to be added to the civil code of Israel, which safeguarded the right of succession in cases of inheritance. On the death of the father the estate goes to the sons unless he didn’t have a son, then the daughters succeed. If there were no daughter, the brothers of the deceased would inherit, and if there were no brethren or paternal uncles, the estate would go to the brothers of his father. If there were no grand uncles or brothers of the father of the deceased, then the nearest akin was to get the inheritance.

Moses was commanded to go up to Mount Abarim, and view the Promised Land and was told of his death before Israel entered the Promised Land because he had not sanctified Yahweh at the waters of Meribah. Moses asked that Yahweh appoint a person to supply his place as leader of the Israelites, so that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd – This is a beautiful expression, and shows us in what light Moses viewed himself among his people. He was their shepherd; he sought no higher place; he fed and guided the flock of God under the direction of the Divine Spirit, and was faithful in his entire Master’s house. Yahweh appointed Joshua in whom is the spirit – this must certainly mean the Spirit of Yahweh; and because he was endued with this Spirit, he was capable of leading the people. No one is qualified for the work of Yahweh who is not guided and influenced by the Holy Ghost! Yahweh never chooses a person to accomplish his designs without qualifying him or her for the work.. He told Moses to lay his hands upon him, to set him before Eleazar the priest, and give him a charge in the sight of the people of Israel. Eleazar was to ask counsel for him by Urim – here was a remarkable difference between him and Moses. Yahweh talked with Moses face to face; but to Joshua only through the medium of the high priest. By his authority Israel was to go out and come in. Moses did as Yahweh commanded him, and consecrated Joshua. He laid his hands upon him – As a proof of his being appointed to and qualified for the work. Subsequently at the word of Joshua they were to go out, and at his word to come in.[3]


Prayer: Lord, you are the protector of all who trust in you. Without you nothing about me is strong, nothing is holy: Increase your mercy so that, with you as my ruler and guide, I will pass through the temporal, and not lose eternal things. You are almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom. You know my necessities before I ask and my ignorance in asking. You have compassion on my weakness and because of your great mercy you give me blessings that I know that I don’t deserve. You have taught me to keep all your commandments by loving you and my fellow human beings. Help me, by the power of your Holy Spirit, to devote my whole heart to you, and unite with others demonstrating pure affection. Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. [4] Lord God, we desperately need your wisdom. You have given us a great country, founded on principles and truths from Your Word. We need men and women who will honor you, trust you, and lead us once again back to you. We pray for servant leaders who love the things you love and who care more about others than themselves. Give us leaders with discerning hearts, bold faith, and wise minds that model your character. Teach them—and us—not just what is good, but what is best. Guide them in the way our country should go. Give them purity in their intentions, and godliness in their convictions. Energize their spirits and bodies physically and spiritually, and keep them emotionally secure in the knowledge of who you are—and whose they are. Help them to be bighearted and sincere, energetic in goodness, and courteous in their manners. I pray that you will rise up leaders with the greatest potential of godly leadership, those who can ease confusion, expose illusion, and heal delusion. You alone hold the power to turn the hearts of leaders, but you listen and use our prayers to move them into right action. Help us to be faithful to care and to pursue your heart in prayer.[5]



Things to think about

  1. How do you think Yahweh used the daughters of Zelophehad to establish a legal code in Israel/
  2. How would you say Yahweh prepared Joshua to be a good leader?
  3. Why do you think Yahweh told Moses to commission Joshua in front of Eleazar and the whole congregation of Israel even though Joshua already had the power of the Spirit on him?
  4. Do you think Moses was a good leader?
  5. Why do you think Yahweh didn’t talk to Joshua face to face as he did with Moses?
  6. What is the difference between a godly leader and one who doesn’t acknowledge the creator in all that they do?









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