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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 24,000 people (25:9). With the plague passed, the LORD commanded Moses to take a final census before crossing 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 (26:1-51)

A census of the Twelve Tribes of Israel was first taken in Numbers 1-4. Comparing that census with this later one revealed 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 significant population growth (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 were recorded in Numbers 26:5-50.

How the Land Would be Divided (26:52-62)

The census was necessary, for it became the basis for assigning each tribe territory in the Promised Land (26:52-56). The Tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe the LORD chose to serve Him, did not inherit land in Canaan (26:62).

A Sobering Reminder of the Generation that Perished (26:62-65)

Numbers 26 concluded with a sobering reminder of God’s judgment upon Israel (26:64). The prior generation had come out of Egypt, but refused to trust the LORD and obey Him. As a result, all, twenty years and older, perished in the wilderness, save two men: “For 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 of Inheritance (27:1-11)

Numbers 27:1-11 is a case study regarding women’s rights and reveals the inequitable laws women protest are not God’s way, but men’s! If men followed the ethics of the Scriptures, they would realize that 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, leaving no male heir. Therefore, the daughters could 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 estate was to pass to his son; however, what became of a man’s possessions when there was no son?

The daughters reasoned, “4Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son?” (27:4) They pleaded that they and their father had been slighted and 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). To ensure a family’s possessions would remain within the tribe, it was determined that should a man die and have neither a son nor daughter, his inheritance would pass to his next of kin (27:9-11).

End of an Era: Moses’ Imminent Death (27:12-13)

The LORD then 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).

A Changing of the Guard: A Man of God’s Choosing (27:14-23)

Moses was then reminded that he would not enter the Land of Promise (27:14; 20:7-13). With humility, he accepted the consequence of his sin with grace. Then, 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 have a shepherd’s heart (27:17).

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

Closing thoughts:

Although he was one of the most extraordinary men ever to live, Moses inevitably went 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 disobeyed the LORD and sinned before all the people, Moses would die, without entering the Promised Land (27:14).

I am reminded that “the best of men are men at best,” and their lives are no more than “a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). Many ignore and deny the haunting fact that it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27); however, godly men pray, “So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Make today count for eternity and “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Questions to consider:

1) Who was to be counted in the census? (26:2)

2) How many sons did Joseph have, and what were their names? (26:28)

3) How many men were numbered in Israel before they entered the Promised Land? (26:51)

4) Why did the daughters of Zelophehad come to Moses and Eleazar? (27:3-4)

5) Understanding his death was imminent, what request did Moses bring to the LORD? (27:15-17)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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