Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Salphaad, a descendant of Joseph, had departed this life in the desert, being one of those who sinned, by murmuring, at Cades-barne. See chap. xiv., and xv. 32. (Calmet) — He only left these five daughters behind him; and, as many others might be under the same predicament, their case deserved the attention of the legislator, who referred it to God. (Haydock)
Ver. 3. Father, the portion which would have been assigned him; that so those whom we may marry, may take the inheritance, under the name of Salphaad, which some of the children may also bear. (Menochius)
Ver. 4-6. Their. The first of these pronouns is written larger than usual, the second is improperly masculine in Hebrew; both, it is pretended, to honour the young women. (Kennicott)
Ver. 9. Him. The Jews observe, that if the father of the deceased were still alive, he would take the inheritance. (Selden, Success. xii. and xiii.) But if his wife were inclined to marry again, she might insist on his next relation taking her, before she could be required to give up his goods, Deuteronomy xxv. 5. Hence the Gemarra of Babylon says, “If we are the daughters of Salphaad, let them give us his estate; but if we are not his daughters, let them make the brother of Salphaad marry our mother.”
Ver. 11. Uncles. His nephews are at a greater distance from the original stock. The Phœnicians carried the same regulations into Africa. (Grotius, Jur. ii. 7.) The relations by the mother’s side, could claim no part. The husband was heir to all his wife’s goods, except her dowry, which went to her children. People born of a slave, or of a harlot or strange woman, were not lawful heirs. “These regulations have been adopted by all civilized nations.” (Origen, hom. 22.) (Calmet)
Ver. 13. People, in limbo. (Menochius) — He was not buried in the grave of his ancestors, but on some part of Mount Abarim, called Nebo, Deuteronomy xxxiv. 1, 6. (Haydock) — Moses, hoping that his sentence of exclusion from the promised land might be only a threat, had earnestly besought God to let him enter. But being forbidden to speak of the matter any more, he understood that it was as irrevocable as an oath, Deuteronomy iii. 26., and iv. 21. He turned, therefore, his whole solicitude to obtain of God some one, who might enjoy the honour and happiness of conducting the people, and putting them in possession of God’s promises. He regards not flesh and blood on this occasion, (Philo, de caritate.; Salien,) but sets a noble pattern for all ecclesiastical superiors to imitate. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 16. Flesh, who gives life, and penetrates the secrets of hearts, chap. xvi. 22.
Ver. 17. Shepherd. Christ makes use of the same comparison, John x. 1. Kings are often styled shepherds in Homer. Moses begs that his successor may be enabled to conduct the multitude in both peace and war. — To go in and out, means to govern, (3 Kings iii. 7,) and includes all the occurrences of life, Acts i. 21., and Psalm cxx. 8. (Calmet) — Thus, temporal princes are the shepherds of the people. But they are not, on that account, supreme in spiritual causes. For here Josue only receives part of the glory of Moses, while Eleazar is appointed to consult the Lord for him, and to direct him in all matters of importance, ver. 20, 21. (Worthington)
Ver. 18. Spirit of God, which was given to him, when he was appointed a judge; (chap. xi. 17,) the spirit of prophesy, (Onkelos,) and of wisdom, (Deuteronomy xxxiv. 9,) of which he received a fresh increase, by the imposition of the hands of Moses. By the like ceremony people are confirmed, and ministers of religion are still ordained, Acts vi. 6., and 1 Timothy iv. 14. (Calmet) — God endues Josue with all the necessary qualifications for his high office. He makes choice of him, and not of any of the relations of Moses, that the people might not be offended at the supreme power being in a manner engrossed by one family; and he appoints one 93 year old, that the success of war might not be attributed to Josue, though he had been long at the head of the armies, and a man of the greatest authority, even the vice-gerent of Moses. He declares his election before all the multitude, with the high priest at their head, that there might be no dispute about the matter; and, on this account, he requires various external ceremonies to be observed. (Salien)
Ver. 20. Precepts, to accept of this office, (Calmet) and to discharge it with integrity. (Haydock) — Glory, not that which shone on the face of Moses, as Onkelos would have it, but all the marks of distinction due to a chief magistrate, (Calmet) the insignia of his office. See Exodus xviii. 21. (Salien) — Treat him with respect, as your successor. (Menochius) — Let him henceforward commence to exercise his authority before you, that all the people may hear and obey him. (Sararius) (Tirinus)
Ver. 21. For him. Hebrew adds, “according to the judgment of Urim.” See Exodus xxviii. 30. Nothing better shews the theocracy of the Hebrews, as Josephus styles it, (contra Apion, 2,) than this order for the chief magistrate in civil affairs, to consult and be guided by God’s minister, and by the sentence which he should pronounce in his name. Till the reign of David, at least, we find few wars undertaken, without consulting God: (Calmet) and the Rabbins assert, that the kings could not declare any war of their own accord, without the consent of the high priest and Sanhedrim. (Selden, Syned. iii. 12.) Saul lost his crown and life for not complying with the injunctions of God, which were communicated to him by the prophet Samuel. (Haydock)
Ver. 23. Commanded. This Moses executed on his birth-day, when he was 120 years old, (Deuteronomy xxxi. 2, 7,) having frequently before given proper instructions to Josue, Deuteronomy i. 38., and xxxii. 44. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The law of inheritance. Josue is appointed to succeed Moses.
1 Then *came the daughters of Salphaad, the son of Hepher,** the son of Galaad, the son of Machir, the son of Manasses, who was the son of Joseph: and their names are Maala, and Noa, and Hegla, and Melcha, and Thersa.
2 And they stood before Moses and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the people, at the door of the tabernacle of the covenant, and said:
3 Our father died in the desert, and was not in the sedition *that was raised against the Lord, under Core, but he died in his own sin: and he had no male children. Why is his name taken away out of his family, because he had no son? Give us a possession among the kinsmen of our father.
4 And Moses referred their cause to the judgment of the Lord.
5 And the Lord said to him:
6 The daughters of Salphaad demand a just thing: give them a possession among their father’s kindred, and let them succeed him in his inheritance.
7 And to the children of Israel thou shalt speak these things:
8 When a man dieth without a son, his inheritance shall pass to his daughter.
9 If he have no daughter, his brethren shall succeed him.
10 And if he have no brethren, you shall give the inheritance to his father’s brethren.
11 But if he have no uncles by the father, the inheritance shall be given to them that are the next a-kin. And this shall be to the children of Israel sacred by a perpetual law, as the Lord hath commanded Moses.
12 *The Lord also said to Moses: **Go up into this mountain, Abarim, and view from thence the land, which I will give to the children of Israel.
13 And when thou shalt have seen it, thou also shalt go to thy people, as thy brother Aaron is gone:
14 *Because you offended me in the desert of Sin in the contradiction of the multitude, neither would you sanctify me before them at the waters. These are the waters of contradiction, in Cades, of the desert of Sin.
15 And Moses answered him:
16 May the Lord the God of the spirits of all flesh provide a man that may be over this multitude:
17 And may go out and in before them, and may lead them out, or bring them in: lest the people of the Lord be as sheep without a shepherd.
18 And the Lord said to him: *Take Josue, the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and put thy hand upon him.
19 And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, and all the multitude.
20 And thou shalt give him precepts in the sight of all, and part of thy glory, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may hear him.
21 If any thing be to be done, Eleazar the priest shall consult the Lord for him. He, and all the children of Israel with him, and the rest of the multitude, shall go out and go in at his word.
22 Moses did as the Lord had commanded. And when he had taken Josue, he set him before Eleazar the priest, and all the assembly of the people,
23 And laying his hands on his head, he repeated all things that the Lord had commanded.
1: Year of the World 2553. — ** Numbers xxvi. 32. and 33. and xxxvi. 1.; Josue xvii. 1.
3: Numbers xvi. 1.
12: Year of the World 2553. — ** Deuteronomy xxxii. 49.
14: Numbers xx. 12.; Deuteronomy xxxii. 51.
18: Deuteronomy iii. 21.