As in many societies there were mostly male leaders. When a man died his possessions would be given to his first born son as an inheritance. By custom the daughter would not receive a portion of the father’s land or property. People would expect that the daughter would marry and share her husband’s land. Until she married the other men in her family would be responsible for her welfare.
Also the records of the family line usually only records the male members of the family. As we see the example of that in the first verse of this chapter. Zelophehad did not have any sons and his daughters felt that it was unfair that their father’s name would be withdrawn from the record and that they would not receive an inheritance from their father’s land and property. So they went before Moses and the leaders to express their grievance. This was a brave act on their part as the women were expected to follow the customs obediently. They believed that the promise of God for the Promised Land was for both man and woman. Even the descendants of the rebellious Korah had a portion of land that was to be theirs. The daughters went to Moses to ask if it was not right for them to receive their father’s inheritance.
Moses believed that their request was important to the daughters and if he was to give them some land then the traditional rules would have to be changed. A decision like this would reach forward to the following generations so Moses went in prayer to ask God how He would decide in the matter.
God told Moses to grant the request of the daughters of Zelophehad and allot them some land. God also gave Moses knew rules to deal with the inheritance of the father’s property and possession in the future. This was so that the future generations would know what to do in this type of circumstance. These new laws would protect the names and property of future generations. Thus the property of a family would not be lost and the family name would be protected.
This showed that each family’s share of the Promised Land was important to God. This also demonstrates the relationship between each families land and the covenant that God had made with Israel. Now each family would be protected from the loss of the family name and property.
Moses because of his disobedience to God was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land. (Number 20-12) Here God reminds Moses of why he will not be allowed to enter, as well the rest of his generation. But did take Moses up to a high mountain top where he could look at the Promised Land.
Then Moses asked God to appoint a new leader for the nation of Israel. Moses knew that to take possession of the Promised Land that they would have to fight the people who were there now livening in the land. They needed not only a strong leader but one who would care for them.
Often the comparison is made in the Old Testament that a leader is like a shepherd. The leader leads and guides his people. He provides for their needs and protects them from their enemies. This is what a good leader does for his people.
God told Moses to choose Joshua as the new leader of the Israelite people after the death of Moses. For many years now Joshua had been Moses’ assistant. (Numbers 11:28) Joshua had already led the Israelite army in battle. (Exodus 17:9-13) And Joshua had already been in the land of Canaan along with eleven others to spy out the land. (Numbers 11:26-30) Joshua and Caleb were the only two men of Moses’ generation that God would allow to enter the Promised Land. So God told Moses to place his hand on Joshua in front of Eleazar and the people to show them that Joshua would be their new leader.
Moses then did as the Lord had commanded him and placed his authority upon Joshua before Eleazar and the people of Israel. Israel would never have another leader like Moses. (Deuteronomy 34:9-12) The people of Israel would now have to respect and obey Joshua. Joshua would not have the same privilege as Moses and could not speak to God directly. Joshua would have to go to Eleazar the High Priest. Eleazar would not be allowed to speak to God either but would have to use the Urim and the Thummim. We are not exactly sure what these objects were or how they worked. The words “Urim and Thummim” mean perfect lights. So they may be two precious stones that the priest would use to ask God about important matters. Through this method God would guide Joshua in all his military decisions. This would be important as they took possession of the Promised Land. We learn and see here that Moses was a very humble man, he was unselfish and very generous. Moses was not thinking about his own death but concerned about what would happen to the Israelite people after his death. He knew that for them to take the Promised Land they would need a holy and strong leader. Moses was not jealous that it would not be he that would lead the people into the Promised Land but faithfully obeyed God. Moses wanted God to choose the new leader and he was glad to let the people know that it was Joshua who was God’s choice.