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Numbers 27:12-23

Context
Leadership Change

27:12 1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim range, 2  and see 3  the land I have given 4  to the Israelites. 27:13 When you have seen it, you will be gathered 5  to your ancestors, 6  as Aaron your brother was gathered to his ancestors. 7  27:14 For 8  in the wilderness of Zin when the community rebelled against me, you 9  rebelled against my command 10  to show me as holy 11  before their eyes over the water – the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.”

27:15 Then Moses spoke to the Lord: 27:16 “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all humankind, 12  appoint 13  a man over the community, 27:17 who will go out before them, and who will come in before them, 14  and who will lead them out, and who will bring them in, so that 15  the community of the Lord may not be like sheep that have no shepherd.”

27:18 The Lord replied 16  to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is such a spirit, 17  and lay your hand on him; 18  27:19 set him 19  before Eleazar the priest and before the whole community, and commission 20  him publicly. 21  27:20 Then you must delegate 22  some of your authority 23  to him, so that the whole community of the Israelites will be obedient. 24  27:21 And he will stand before Eleazar the priest, who 25  will seek counsel 26  for him before the Lord by the decision of the Urim. 27  At his command 28  they will go out, and at his command they will come in, he and all the Israelites with him, the whole community.”

27:22 So Moses did as the Lord commanded him; he took Joshua and set 29  him before Eleazar the priest and before the whole community. 27:23 He laid his hands on him and commissioned him, just as the Lord commanded, 30  by the authority 31  of Moses.

1 sn See further J. Lindblom, “Lot Casting in the Old Testament,” VT 12 (1962): 164-78; E. Lipinski, “Urim and Thummim,” VT 20 (1970): 495-96; and S. E. Loewenstamm, “The Death of Moses,” Tarbiz 27 (1957/58): 142-57.

2 tc The Greek version adds “which is Mount Nebo.” This is a typical scribal change to harmonize two passages.

sn The area is in the mountains of Moab; Deut 34:1 more precisely identifies it as Mount Nebo.

3 tn The imperative could be subordinated to the first to provide a purpose clause, although a second instruction fits well enough.

4 tn This perfect tense would best be classified as a perfect of resolve: “which I have decided to give.” God had not yet given the land to them, but it was certain he would.

5 tn The first verb is a perfect tense with a vav (ו) consecutive, and the second verb is also. In such parallel clauses, the first may be subordinated, here as a temporal clause.

6 tn Heb “people.”

7 tn Heb “was gathered.” The phrase “to his ancestors” is elided in the Hebrew text, but is an implied repetition from the beginning of the verse, and has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.

8 tn The preposition on the relative pronoun has the force of “because of the fact that.”

9 tn The verb is the second masculine plural form.

10 tn Heb “mouth.”

11 sn Using the basic meaning of the word קָדַשׁ (qadash, “to be separate, distinct, set apart”), we can understand better what Moses failed to do. He was supposed to have acted in a way that would have shown God to be distinct, different, holy. Instead, he gave the impression that God was capricious and hostile – very human. The leader has to be aware of what image he is conveying to the people.

12 tn Heb “flesh”; cf. NAB, NIV “all mankind”; NCV “all people”; NLT “all living things.”

13 tn This is the same verb פָּקַד (paqad) that is used throughout the book for the aspect of “numbering” the people.

14 sn This is probably technical terminology for a military leader (Josh 14:11; 1 Sam 18:13-16; 1 Kgs 3:7; 2 Kgs 11:9). The image of a shepherd can also be military in nature (1 Kgs 22:17).

15 tn The Hebrew text has the conjunction with the negated imperfect tense, “and it will not be.” This clause should be subordinated to the preceding to form a result clause, and the imperfect then function as a final imperfect.

16 tn Or “said.”

17 sn The word “spirit” probably refers to the Holy Spirit, in which case it would be rendered “in whom is the Spirit.” This would likely be a permanent endowment for Joshua. But it is also possible to take it to refer to a proper spirit to do all the things required of such a leader (which ultimately is a gift from the Spirit of God). The Hebrew text simply says “in whom is a spirit.”

18 sn This symbolic act would indicate the transfer of leadership to Joshua.

19 tn This could be translated “position him,” or “have him stand,” since it is the causative stem of the verb “to stand.”

20 tn The verb is the Piel perfect of צִוָּה (tsivvah, literally “to command”). The verb has a wide range of meanings, and so here in this context the idea of instructing gives way to a more general sense of commissioning for duty. The verb in sequence is equal to the imperfect of instruction.

21 tn Heb “in their eyes.”

22 tn The verb is simply “give,” but in this context giving some of Moses’ honor to Joshua in the presence of the people is essentially passing the leadership to him, or delegating the authority to him with the result that people would follow him.

23 tc The Greek, Syriac, and Vulgate read “glory” for this form that occurs only here in the Pentateuch. Elsewhere it is rendered “majesty, splendor” (see Ps 96:6). It could even be “vitality” here. The authority being transferred here is both spiritual and civil.

24 tn Heb “hear.”

25 tn The passage simply has “and he will ask,” but Eleazar is clearly the subject now.

26 tn Heb “ask.”

27 sn The new leader would not have the privilege that Moses had in speaking to God face to face. Rather, he would have to inquire of the Lord through the priest, and the priest would seek a decision by means of the Urim. The Urim and the Thummim were the sacred lots that the priest had in his pouch, the “breastplate” as it has traditionally been called. Since the Law had now been fully established, there would be fewer cases that the leader would need further rulings. Now it would simply be seeking the Lord’s word for matters such as whether to advance or not. The size, shape or substance of these objects is uncertain. See further C. Van Dam, The Urim and Thummim.

28 tn Heb “mouth,” meaning what he will say.

29 tn Heb “stood.”

30 tn Heb “spoke.”

31 tn Heb “hand.”



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