Uncovering the Meaning of Numbers 27

As we delve deep into the remarkably profound and spiritual richness of Numbers 27, we are afforded the opportunity to better understand God’s divine instructions, the evolution of Israel’s leadership, and the inheritance rights of women.

Drawn from the esteemed translation of the New King James Version (NKJV), this commentary is designed to illuminate the richness of the text, contextualize its significance, and facilitate a more profound understanding of its teachings. Read these meticulously detailed analyses to enrich your study of this remarkable chapter in the Holy Bible.

May this exploration stir in us a greater appreciation and an enduring zeal for the wisdom of God’s Word.

Key Takeaways

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  1. Inheritance Rights of Women: Numbers 27 tells the story of the daughters of Zelophehad, who challenged the prevailing inheritance laws of their time. They boldly approached Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the assembly, requesting the right to their deceased father’s inheritance. God affirmed their claim and instructed Moses to revise the laws to include daughters as legitimate heirs.
  2. Gender and Justice: The daughters of Zelophehad’s story highlights the inherent equality God intends between men and women. It serves as a call for Christians to stand for justice, champion equality, and address social injustices in contemporary society, regardless of societal norms or structures.
  3. Leadership Succession: Numbers 27 also addresses the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua. God instructed Moses to appoint Joshua as his successor, symbolically transferring authority through the laying on of hands. This narrative emphasizes the importance of grooming Godly leaders and practicing servant leadership modeled after Christ.
  4. Active Faith and Trust in God’s Promises: The stories in Numbers 27 encourage believers to have an active faith that stands up for justice, pursues what is rightfully theirs, and trusts in God’s promises. It calls for steadfastness, courage, and wisdom in facing adversity and challenges.
  5. Continuity of God’s Guidance: The appointment of Joshua as Moses’s successor signifies God’s care in providing continued leadership for His people. It highlights the need for succession planning and mentoring in spiritual and secular communities, ensuring the continuity of God’s guidance and work through future generations.
  6. Living Under God’s Grace and Law: Numbers 27 underscores the importance of living under God’s grace and law, selecting leaders after God’s heart, and upholding the principles of justice and equality. It serves as a reminder that God cares about personal rights, dignities, and the intricacies of legal affairs.
Uncovering the Meaning of Numbers 27

Introduction to Numbers 27: Understanding the Biblical Context

The 27th chapter of the Book of Numbers in the Old Testament introduces us to a unique incident that was challenging for its time and continues to spark theological debates. The central narrative revolves around the daughters of Zelophehad (Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah), who boldly approach Moses and the assembly at the Tent of Meeting, requesting the right to their deceased father’s inheritance (Numbers 27:1-11, NKJV).

Zelophehad had died without a son, and according to the customary laws, his daughters would not inherit anything. This narrative proves instrumental in bringing forth a shift in the understood patriarchal inheritance laws of that time.

Their request was without precedent and viewed as audacious, but God affirmed their rights and instructed Moses to revise the legalities to include such circumstances. This new law stated:

  • If a man dies and leaves no son, then you shall cause his inheritance to pass to his daughter (Numbers 27:8, NKJV)
  • If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers (Numbers 27:9, NKJV)
  • If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers (Numbers 27:10, NKJV)

These legal adjustments not only guaranteed the daughters’ survival but also recognized them as legitimate heirs, solidifying their place within the socio-economic structure of their community.

The latter part of Numbers 27 then narrates about the leadership transition from Moses to Joshua (Numbers 27:12-23, NKJV). Recognizing his mortality and the imperative need for continued leadership after him, Moses asked God to provide someone who would guide and govern the people of Israel.

God chose Joshua and instructed Moses to lay his hands on him, symbolically transferring his authority. This marked the beginning of a new era, highlighting the significance of mentorship, succession planning, and the importance of strong leadership in the faith community.

The Daughters of Zelophehad: Breaking Gender Norms (Numbers 27:1-11)

The story of Zelophehad’s daughters reveals a bold challenge to the established system and a significant progress in women’s rights. In Numbers 27:1-11, five sisters – Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah, challenged the prevailing inheritance laws of their time. Their father, Zelophehad, had died without sons. According to the laws of their day, this meant that his estate would be passed on to his nearest male relative, leaving the daughters with nothing.

“Then they stood before Moses, before Eleazar the priest, and before the leaders and all the congregation, by the doorway of the tabernacle of meeting, saying, ‘Our father died in the wilderness…and he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be removed from among his family because he had no son? Give us a property among our father’s brothers.'”(Numbers 27:2-4, NKJV).

The daughters petitioned Moses, Eleazar the priest, the tribal leaders, and the entire congregation, boldly demanding their right to their father’s inheritance. The result was unprecedented:

God affirmed their claim saying, ‘The daughters of Zelophehad speak what is right; you shall surely give them a possession of inheritance among their father’s brothers, and cause the inheritance of their father to pass to them. And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: If a man dies and has no son, then you shall cause his inheritance to pass to his daughter.’(Numbers 27:7-8, NKJV).

Not only was their claim accepted, but it led to a permanent change in the inheritance law. This story signifies the inherent equality God intends between men and women. It encourages us, just like the daughters of Zelophehad, to stand for justice and equality, even when it means challenging established norms.

Moses’ Succession Established: Leadership Change (Numbers 27:12-17)

In this crucial chapter of the Book of Numbers, God instructs Moses to ascend Mount Abarim, from where he will get a view of the land that He promised to the Israelites (Numbers 27:12). Crucially, this will be Moses’s last glimpse of Earth as the Almighty prophecies his impending death due to an earlier transgression at the waters of Meribah. However, God’s plans for succession are clearly established as He instructs Moses on the leadership change.

“And 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.”

(Numbers 27:18). This signifies an impartation of spiritual authority from Moses to Joshua, earmarking him as the next leader. Joshua’s attributes include:

  • Belief in God’s promises despite seeming impossible odds.
  • Commitment to Godly principles.
  • The spiritual wisdom to lead the Israelites to Canaan.

One crucial moment that marks Joshua for leadership is Moses’s act of presenting Joshua before Eleazar, the priest, and the entire Israelite assembly, laying his hands on him, and commissioning him as instructed by God (Numbers 27: 22-23). This public act was not mere procedure. The laying on of hands carried a double symbolism:

  • It was a sign of a transfer of authority.
  • It was a way to ensure the continuity of God’s guidance.

This change of leadership signifies God’s care in providing continued leadership for His people even as the human agents of His will come and go. This serves as a great model for leadership transition in spiritual and secular communities today.

The Ordination of Joshua: A Divine Appointment (Numbers 27:18-23)

The appointment of Joshua as Moses’ successor happens at a pivotal point of Israel’s journey towards the Promised Land. The episode recorded in Numbers 27:18-23 encapsulates an essential transition in Israel’s leadership.

In particular, the episode provides us with profound insights into the nature of divinely ordained succession from Moses to Joshua. As Moses had been instructed by the Lord, Joshua, the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, was chosen because God saw in him a successor who would continue leading the people in His ways (Numbers 27:18).

Joshua was not arbitrarily chosen for this monumental task. The text states that he was a man in whom the Spirit dwelled. This is an indispensable requirement for Christian leadership; to be filled with the Spirit of God. The list of Joshua’s qualifications is brief but speaks volumes:

  • He was a man of integrity
  • Joshua had a proven track record as Moses’ aide
  • His courage and faith in God were tested and proven at Kadesh Barnea
  • He was faithful and obedient, choosing to serve the Lord and His people rather than his interests.

What is fascinating is the method of ordination used to confirm Joshua’s leadership. Moses laid his hands upon Joshua, but not without involving Eleazar, the high priest, in front of the entire congregation (Numbers 27:22). This act signified three key things:

  • Identification: Moses’ laying of hands symbolically transferred his authority to Joshua, identifying him as the chosen successor.
  • Empowerment: The act released divine power and authority onto Joshua.
  • Approval: It was a public endorsement before the priest and congregation of Joshua’s divine appointment.

This model of ordination echoes the charismatic belief in the power of the laying of hands and fulfills both a prophetic and priestly function, signaling that God’s hand was upon Joshua for the task ahead.

Closing Thoughts on Numbers 27: Its Relevance to Contemporary Christian Life

Reflecting on modern Christian life through the lens of Numbers 27 sheds light on the importance of active faith, social justice, and leadership succession. In the face of adversity, the daughters of Zelophehad didn’t simply accept their lot. Instead, they stood firm against injustices to claim what was rightfully theirs. This narrative is a call for Christians today to have an active faith that seeks to address social injustices.

Numbers 27 amplifies the need to uphold social justice by advocating for the rights and interests of the marginalized. In a world filled with inequality and prejudice, this narrative reinforces the importance of standing up for justice. Here, the courage and wisdom of the five sisters resonate with contemporary Christians who are also called to:

  • Champion equality and justice regardless of societal norms or structures
  • Pursue what is rightfully theirs, grounded in God’s word
  • Remain steadfast in their faith, trusting and believing in God’s promises

Lastly, the story in Numbers 27 significant points to discusses the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua, foreshadowing the promise of the coming Messiah. Moses’ positioning of Joshua ahead of Israel wasn’t simply about succession; it was a representation of hope and renewal, of the upcoming saviour. In the same vein, Christians today are called upon to encourage and groom Godly leadership styles in their communities, highlighting servant leadership modeled after Christ (Mark 10:43-45, NKJV). This includes:

  • Instilling the principle of loving and serving God’s people
  • Developing a sense of humility and faith in Christ as the supreme leader

This passage in Numbers 27 not only reinforces the importance of maintaining an active faith that stands up for justice and equality, but also presents Christ’s model of leadership as the standard for Christian leaders today.


In conclusion, Numbers 27 paints a vivid picture of God’s just principles, His visionary leadership, and His merciful heart, as expressed through Moses, the appointed shepherd of Israel. This chapter elevates the affirmation of female inheritance rights (Numbers 27:1-11), the appointment of Joshua as Moses’s successor (Numbers 27:12-23), and the importance of guidance in leading God’s people.

Most significantly, the chapter illustrates the Lord’s compassion and justice towards His children, and the inalienable principle that no one stands above God’s laws – not even Moses. Remember, “You cannot hide from God; you can’t even hide your heart from Him” (Hebrews 4:13 NKJV). Just as Moses was held accountable for his actions, so too will we stand before God and give an account of every deed done in the body, whether they be good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10 NKJV).

Finally, the appointment of Joshua is a reminder of the need for successive Godly leadership. Church, let’s learn to prepare, empower, and raise a generation that can take over when we are gone. For “the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2 NKJV).

May we learn to live under God’s grace and law, selecting leaders after God’s own heart, and ensuring that every voice is heard – male or female. May these divine principles serve as the bedrock of our lives as well as the entities we govern – in our homes, churches, communities, and nations. Remember, God’s Word is timeless and pertinent for all ages and generations.

Above all, Numbers 27 demonstrates that we serve a God who even in the minutiae of legal affairs, cares about personal rights and dignities, leadership transitions, and the continuity of His work through the generations. It is my prayer that as we delve deeper into the Word of God, it comes alive to us and shapes us into thechildren of God we are destined to be. Amen.

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