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27. Joshua to Succeed Moses

Then 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. 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, 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. 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. 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. 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, 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; 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. 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. 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.

15. And Moses spake. Moses here sets forth not only God’s providence in attending to the welfare of the people, but also his own zeal for them. Hence it appears how paternal was his affection for them, in that he not only performed his duty towards them faithfully and earnestly, and shunned no pains that it cost him, even to the end of his life, but he also makes provision for the future, and is anxious about a suitable successor, lest the people should remain without one, like a headless body. We perceive also his humility, when he does not arrogate the right of appointment to himself, nor on his own authority submit the matter to the election of the people, but establishes God as its sole arbiter. It was, indeed, permitted him to choose the officers, and this was a part of the political constitution; but this was too difficult a task, to find by man’s judgment one who should suffice for its performance; and, consequently, it behoved that the power should be intrusted to God alone, who did not indeed refuse to undertake it. And this special reason had much force in so difficult a point, viz., that the people should receive their leader at His hand, in order that the supreme power should always remain vested in Himself. As, therefore, He had chosen Moses in an extraordinary manner, and had appointed him to be His representative, so He continued the same grace in the case of Joshua. Already, indeed, had He designated him; but, out of modesty, Moses omits his name, and simply prays that God would provide for His people.

The title, with which he honors God, has reference to the matter in question. It is true, indeed, that God may be often called “the God of the spirits of all flesh,” and for another reason, in chap. 16:22, Moses makes use of this expression; but he now alludes to this attribute, as much as to say, that there must be some one ready, and as it were in His hand, who should be appointed, since He has the making of all men according to His own will. Men often are mistaken and deceived in their opinions, and, even although the Spirit of God may enlighten them, they go no further than to discern the peculiar endowment for which a person is eminent; but God is not only the best judge of each man’s ability and aptitude, nor does He only penetrate to the inmost recesses of every heart; but He also fashions and refashions the men whom He chooses as His ministers, and supplies them with the faculties they require in order to be sufficient for bearing the burden. We gather from hence a useful lesson, i.e., that, when we are deprived of good rulers, they should be sought from the Maker Himself, whose special gift the power of good government is. And on this ground Moses calls Him not only the Creator of men, but “of all flesh,” and expressly refers to their “spirits.”

When he compares the people to sheep, it is for the purpose of awakening compassion, so that God may be more disposed to appoint them a shepherd.


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