Women’s Rights, and the Changing of the Guard (Numbers 26-27)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 26-27

The gross adultery, and idolatry recorded in Numbers 25 had provoked God to send a plague in Israel that occasioned the deaths of twenty-four thousand people (25:9). With the plague past, the LORD commanded Moses to take a final census before crossing over the Jordan River, “from twenty years old and upward, throughout their fathers’ house, all that are able to go to war in Israel” (26:2).

Numbers 26 – The Final Census, Before the Promised Land

A census of the Twelve Tribes of Israel had first been taken in Numbers 1-4. A comparison of that census, with this later one reveals a slight decrease in the Twelve Tribes overall (the first totaling 603,500 men, and the second 601,730 men, who were twenty years or older). Some tribes had experienced a decline (Simeon declining from 59,300 men, to 22,200 men, twenty years and older). Other tribes had experienced a large growth in population (the men of the tribe of Manasseh had increased from 32,200, to 52,700 men, twenty years and older). The names and the numbering of the Twelve Tribes is recorded in Numbers 26:5-50.

The census was important, for it became the basis for assigning each tribe their own territory in the Promised Land (26:52-56). The Tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe chosen by the LORD to serve Him, did not receive an inheritance of land in Canaan (26:62).

Numbers 26 concludes with a sobering reminder of God’s judgment upon Israel (26:64). The prior generation of people who had come out of Egypt, but refused to trust the LORD and obey Him, had all perished in the wilderness, save two men: “65For the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun” (26:65).

Numbers 27 – Women’s Rights, and the Changing of the Guard

The Scriptures prove the LORD’s judgments are just in the matter of women’s rights. Numbers 27:1-11 is a wonderful case study regarding the rights of women, and reveals the inequitable laws women protest are not God’s way, but men’s! If men would follow the ethics of the Scriptures, they would realize the ways of the LORD are wise, benevolent, and compassionate.

Five daughters, of one man of the tribe of Manasseh, came to Moses, and Eleazar the high priest (27:1-2). Their father had died, with no son, and leaving no male heir. The daughters were permitted to plead their case regarding their late father’s right-of-inheritance in the Promised Land (27:1-4). According to the law, a man’s inheritance was to pass to his son; however, without a son, what was to become of a man’s possessions?

The daughters reasoned, “4Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son?” (27:4) Arguing they, and their father had been slighted, the women petitioned, “Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father” (27:4).

Rather than make a hasty, ill-advised decision, or trust men’s opinions, Moses withdrew, and “brought [the] cause [of the daughters] before the LORD” (27:5). The LORD, affirmed the sisters assertion (27:6), and answered Moses: “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” (27:7). Ensuring a family’s possessions would remain within the tribe, should a man die and have neither a son or daughter, his inheritance would pass to his next of kin (27:9-11).

Numbers 27:12-23 – End of an Era

The LORD commanded Moses, “Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. 13  And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered” (27:12-13).

Moses was reminded that he would not enter the Land of Promise (27:14; 20:7-13), and accepted the consequence of his sin with grace. Like a true shepherd leader, Moses requested the LORD “set a man over the congregation” (27:16). Moses desired to ensure his successor would be a man of God’s choosing, and a man with a shepherd’s heart (27:17).

God chose “Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit [of God]” (27:18).  Leaving no uncertainty that Joshua was God’s choice (27:18), the LORD directed Moses to confirm him before “all the congregation” (27:19-20). Moses obeyed the LORD, and took Joshua, and “laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded” (27:23).

A closing thought: Although he was one of the greatest men to ever live, Moses did inevitably go the way of all flesh, and was “gathered unto [his] people, as Aaron [his] brother was gathered” (27:13).  Miriam was dead; Aaron was dead; and because he had sinned before all the people, Moses would die, without crossing into the Promised Land (27:14).

The author of Hebrews writes, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). “So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith