Numbers 27-29
(Passing the Torch)
February 18th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verses

"Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughter. If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to have the force of law for the Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.’”

- Numbers 27:8-11 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

This set of chapters represents a generational transition in progress. The Israelites had been in the desert for almost 40 years following their divine exodus from Egypt. Of the two million Israelites who had escaped from Egypt, only three of those who had been over the age of 20 at the time of the exodus remained: Moses, Joshua, and Caleb. All the others had passed away, but the next generation had become of age and were ready for the transfer of responsibilities and material possessions. In this context, God provides additional examples for applying one of his rules regarding inheritance, selects a replacement for Moses, and reviews the required offerings and celebrations so that the next generation will uphold them.

We learn in chapter 27 about the five daughters of Zelophehad that came before Moses, Eleazar and the other leaders in order to present an inheritance problem. They wanted to claim the assets of their recently deceased father, who had been a respectable citizen (not part of Korah’s gang). However, there were no explicit laws about daughters inheriting family possessions – only sons. Moses consulted with God and the daughters were vindicated. God added more specific examples to aid the decision-makers in future cases.

These explicit rules would be helpful to the next generation of leaders. Eleazar had already replaced Aaron as high priest and now Moses learns that his time on earth is ending. The LORD appoints Joshua and instructs Moses to begin sharing his responsibilities.

In chapters 28-29, God provides additional instructions for offerings and reviews the proper ways to celebrate the Sabbath and each festival. The festival descriptions are a re-statement from Leviticus 23.

Reflection and Application

It was interesting to observe that Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah, and Tirzah had figured out the correct interpretation of the law of inheritance, but the wise men had to ask God to explain it to them. Maybe these daughters of Zelophehad had already consulted with God, or maybe they had good minds for the law and figured it out on their own. In either case, there is nothing wrong with seeking God’s advice in situations where we don’t know the answer. In fact, this is a very good practice. He is available 24/7/365. All of his consulting services are pro-bono. Oh, and he is also the creator of the universe and the creator of all wisdom. Why not run it past him and see what he says?

It was also a good practice for Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah, and Tirzah to stand up for their rights, but to do it in a respectful way. They took their case to the leaders and received a just decision without any conflict. God has provided us with a foundation of laws so that we can work out potential conflicts in a fair and just way.

Sometimes it seems like the stories of the Bible are very male-oriented, for example, the census procedure that only includes men. However, the truth is that God cares for sons AND daughters, as shown in this chapter. We will also be reading many instances of women who played important roles in Biblical accounts. For instance, who was the first person to see Jesus after he had risen from the grave, a man or a woman?

The instructions in todays chapters from the book of Numbers call for daily sacrifice, Sabbath observation, and festival celebrations. These instructions are good reminders to us that it’s important to stop the working parts of our lives to commune with God. Many of us get so busy in our lives that we begin losing sight of God. Therefore it's important to have a daily sacrifice or devotional to reconnect with our Creator. The Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (4 February 1906 – 9 April 1945) reminds of the importance of taking time each day to practice silent waiting for God:

It’s valuable to receive reminders of the importance of taking time to be with God. We have many reminders in the Bible and in the writings of spiritual leaders from past and present. We also sometimes receive reminders from unexpected sources, like a poster on a sidewalk or a sign on the highway. For example, have you ever seen a highway billboard with white writing on a plain black background that has messages from God? For example, one says:

An anonymous person or organization created this series of Public Service Announcements with terse messages from God and paid to have them posted throughout the country. I have seen them on interstate 95 in Connecticut and heard of their existence in other places. I recently received an email that reported an observance in Dallas, Texas, and received a link to a web page that displays all the variations of this billboard, which collectively represent God's loving and disciplinary nature. You can see this web page by clicking the following title: God's Billboard

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What are some of your favorite advertisements of all time?
    2. What would you like to talk to God about today?
    3. What can we do today to spread God’s message – even if it’s just one terse statement like the ones on his billboards?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father, please help us to take time to talk to you and listen for your response.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Leaders who are retiring and those who succeed them


    (1), Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, No Greater Love, Lenten Meditations, Creative Communications for the Parish, St. Louis, MO, 1999

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Numbers 30-32 (Taking Possession)

    Comments and Questions
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