(3) Our father died in the wilderness.—The preceding chapter records the fulfilment of the sentence of exclusion pronounced on the generation which came out of Egypt after the completion of the twentieth year of their age. The argument used by the daughters of Zelophehad appears to be that their father was not one of those who signally provoked the Divine displeasure, so that he might justly have forfeited for himself and his descendants a share in the possession of the promised land. “He died,” they say, “in his own sin.” There is a Jewish tradition that Zelophehad was the man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath day, and was stoned (Numbers 14:32). The more common interpretation of the expression is that he committed only the ordinary sins of human frailty (see Numbers 5:6), and that he died “the common death of all men,” and was “visited after the visitation of all men” (see Numbers 16:29), and consequently did not entail upon his posterity any special punishment for the sins which he had committed. In obedience to the directions contained in the preceding chapter (Numbers 26:52-56), the land of Canaan was to be portioned out, in accordance with the results of the census which had recently been taken. amongst the males who were upwards of twenty years of age; and consequently the daughters of Zelophehad, would not have shared in the inheritance. Keil (in loc.) quotes several instances in which the sons of mothers who possessed landed property were received through that inheritance into the family of their mothers, and included in the tribe to which the mothers belonged. In this case the desire of the daughters of Zelophehad was that their father’s name should be perpetuated—i.e., that their sons should be enrolled as descendants of Zelophehad, and should succeed to that portion of the land which, under ordinary circumstances, would have fallen to his sons, had he left any behind him. Bishop Wordsworth observes that, inasmuch as we are to regard the inheritance of Canaan as being a figure of the heavenly possession, the answer which was returned to the inquiry of Moses respecting the daughters of Zelophehad may be regarded as an indication that “in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female,” and that women, no less than men, are “heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29).
And see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel.—“The law,” says Bishop Wordsworth, “led men to ‘see the promises afar off, and to embrace them’ [rather, to see and greet the promises from afar, Hebrews 11:13], and it brought them to the borders of Canaan, but could not bring them into it: that was reserved for Joshua, the type of Jesus.” It must not be overlooked, however, that, although he was shut out during his lifetime from entering into the land of Canaan, Moses was permitted to stand with Elijah upon the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:3).
And lay thine hand upon him.—It is to be observed that the spiritual qualifications of Joshua did not supersede the necessity of an outward consecration to his office. Nay, more; it seems that special qualifications for the office were bestowed in connection with the imposition of the hands of Moses, for it is written in Deuteronomy 34:9 that “Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him.”
At his word . . . —i.e., Joshua and the children of Israel were to abide by the decision of the high priest, which was obtained by means of Urim and Thummim.
Numbers 27:22And Moses did as the LORD commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation:
Numbers 27:23And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.