Numbers 36 Commentary

Numbers 36 Commentary. A look at the last chapter.

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We have another problem from Zelophehad’s daughters’ inheritance. Yes, it’s good that they got an inheritance. But what happens if they marry outside the tribe? The inheritance would be lost to other tribes. These concerns are brought before Moses and the leaders of the Community.

The LORD responds by agreeing with the concerns raised. A solution is required. In His dealings with man the LORD seems to move at man’s pace. We know the LORD did know about this problem the long before it cropped up. But man didn’t know. We cross the bridge when we get there.

If you saw a quarter moon one night, the LORD would agree with you that indeed the moon is a ‘slice’. If again after seeing a different shape you concluded that the moon changes its shape, the LORD would again agree with your observation because that is what you have seen. The LORD is like a father moving at a five-year-old child’s pace.

So our child has seen the other side of the moon. So with the latest version, changes are made to the law. The daughters are free to marry anyone but within the clan. This is important for the saint today. The saint today has property of more value than land. Who the saint marries would decide whether they lose the property or keep it. When the church insists that daughters of the kingdom marry within the kingdom, the wisdom is that we need to protect the one most important property we have – salvation.

Numbers ends here.

Indeed it has been a book of numbers. The important number hasn’t changed, though. It was 600,000 at the start. It remains 600,000 at the end. But the content of the box has completely changed.

Six hundred thousand at the start and the same at the end means the nation hasn’t at all increased in number. The Abrahamic blessing of increase has stalled. That is what the two censuses have revealed – one at the start and the other at the end.

Numbers has been about the number of years it has taken them from Mount Sinai to the plains of Moab, across from Jericho. It has also been about the numbers lost during the many rebellions in the many years of travel.

Chapters 13 and 14 stand out as defining moments. We have also counted other moments of rebellion followed by renewed laws in an attempt to re-educate the errant community.

Numbers has been about the name itself. It is accounts – the business of numbers. We have accounted for the losses (not so much the gains as we have seen little of that). We have lost Aaron and Miriam. And we are also ready for Moses’ last speech in Deuteronomy – before his death.

We have seen the other important figures in terms of numbers of animals required for this and that sacrifice. These have been important for Israel to connect back to her God.

God’s watch over Israel is highlighted in the story of Balaam. But there appears to be more to Balaam’s story. The universal declarations about the nature and character of the LORD via Balaam’s mouth are unparalleled in scripture.

The donkey talking to Balaam and the LORD putting words in Balaam’s mouth are an indictment on the nation that was birthed to do that very task.

We have a long list of stations along the way. It displays for us a picture of difficulties. Rebellion is always packaged with physical consequences.

Moses would pass on the two offices he occupied to Joshua and the priest Eleazar. Leadership of the State would go to Joshua with Eleazar the priest providing spiritual guidance on behalf of the nation.

A new generation begins to settle in the Promised Land. The land has reduced in size. We guess this is yet another change in number that the book has ably accounted for. The instruction to Zelophehad’s daughters to only marry within the tribe (in order to keep their inheritance) may be applied to the need for Israel to keep her marriage with the LORD intact otherwise her inheritance would be lost.  

The book of Numbers ends unceremoniously because it is not the end. It is one piece in a very long story of God’s people. The ‘end’ opens the way for Moses’ last speech to the nation. So next is the book of Deuteronomy. It is the last book in the Torah.

Thanks for loving God’s word! Amen.

Published by Joseph Malekani

Joseph Malekani is a born-again Christian with a strong PAOG/Baptist background. He is heavily involved in student ministry with ZAFES – an IFES movement with focus on student ministry in Zambia. He is married to Audrey and they have two lovely children.

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