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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1Then came the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph: and these are the names of his daughters; Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah.
Women in Israel had not, up to the present time, enjoyed any distinct right of inheritance. Yet a father, whether sons had been born to him or not, had the power, either before or at his death, to cause part of his estate to pass to a daughter; in which case her husband married into her family rather than she into his, and the children were regarded as of the family from which the estate had come. Thus, Machir, ancestor of Zelophehad, although he had a son Gilead, left also, as is probable, an inheritance to his daughter, the wife of Hezron of the tribe of Judah, by reason of which their descendants, among whom was Jair, were reckoned as belonging to the tribe of Manasseh (Numbers 32:41; 1 Chronicles 2:21 ff).
2And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,
By the door of the tabernacle of the congregation - The place of solemn assembly of the elders. The daughters of Zelophehad made their suit to the princes, the heads of tribes and of families, who were making the census under the superintendence of Moses and Eleazar.
3Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons.
But died in his own sin - i. e., perished under the general sentence of exclusion from the land of promise passed on all the older generation, but limited to that generation alone. By virtue of the declaration in Numbers 14:31 the daughters of Zelophehad claim that their father's sin should not be visited upon them.
4Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father.
Give unto us - As representing our father; that so he, through us his representatives, may enjoy a like inheritance with his brethren.
5And Moses brought their cause before the LORD.
6And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
7The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father's brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them.
8And 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.
9And if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren.
10And if he have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his father's brethren.
11And if his father have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it: and it shall be unto the children of Israel a statute of judgment, as the LORD commanded Moses.
12And the LORD said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel.
Mount Abarim - See Numbers 21:20 note.
13And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered.
14For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that is the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.
15And Moses spake unto the LORD, saying,
16Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation,
The God of the spirits of all flesh - An acknowledgment that man, who is but flesh (compare Genesis 6:3), is of himself helpless; and "lives and moves and has his being" in God Acts 17:28. The words are suitably employed here to introduce an entreaty that God would not leave the congregation without a guide and leader, and in Numbers 16:22 as a preface to an intercession that the whole people should not suffer for the sin of a, few.
17Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.
18And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him;
In whom is the spirit Compare Genesis 41:38. Joshua was endowed by God with the requisite spiritual qualifications for the office. Moses howerer, was to lay his hands upon him, both in order to confer formal and public appointment, and also (compare Deuteronomy 34:9) to confirm and strengthen the spiritual gifts already bestowed. The previous reception of the inner grace did not dispense with that of the outward sign; compare the case of Cornelius Acts 10:44-48; and Paul's baptism after his miraculous conversion Acts 9:18.
19And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.
20And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient.
Of thine honor - i. e., of thy dignity and authority (compare Numbers 11:17, Numbers 11:28). Joshua was constituted immediately vice-leader under Moses, by way of introduction to his becoming chief after Moses' death.
21And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.
And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest ... - Joshua was thus to be inferior to what Moses had been. For Moses had enjoyed the privilege of unrestricted direct contact with God: Joshua, like all future rulers of Israel, was to ask counsel mediately, through the High Priest and those means of inquiring of God wherewith the high priest was entrusted. Such counsel Joshua seems to have omitted to seek when he concluded his hasty treaty with the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:3 ff).
Judgment of Urim - See Exodus 28:30 note.
22And Moses did as the LORD commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation:
23And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.