The LORD gave Joshua a charge by the hand of Moses
CONTEXT – Numbers 27.1-11 These verses give clarity to the previously revealed law of inheritance providing for the daughters of Zelophehad (see also Numbers 36). With the immanent movement into the promised land the LORD reveals His “line of succession”.
Numbers 27. 12 And the Lord said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. 13 And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered. 14 For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that is the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.1
15 And Moses spake unto the Lord, saying, 16 Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, 17 Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd.2
18 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; 19 And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. 20 And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. 21 And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.3
22 And Moses did as the Lord commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation: 23 And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses.4
1 Note (Numbers 20.23-29) that the LORD had directed Moses, Aaron and Eleazar to go up to Mount Hor. There Moses transferred the priestly garments from Aaron to Eleazar and Aaron died. The LORD “installed” Eleazar as high priest. Here for the same reason the LORD gave similar instructions to Moses but in addition he would be allowed and divinely empowered to see the promised land. But he would die alone.
2 Moses makes no protest to his death but is immediately concerned for the “civil leadership” void that will be created (priestly leadership had previously passed from Aaron to Eleazar). In view of the many travails he had experienced, he prays (prophetically?) “that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd.”
3 Elsewhere in the Bible it seems certain the Lord had been preparing Joshua for this roll but He had not revealed His plan. By the laying on of hands before the priest and the congregation, Joshua received the charge from the LORD through Moses. Joshua was given only a portion of the “authority” of Moses. His “civil leadership (and his successors)” was subordinated to the “priestly authority” of Eleazar and his successors. The LORD established His plan (Numbers 34.17) for governing the nation until they rebelled and demanded a king.
4 The LORD’s choice is confirmed before the priest and the congregation as witnesses. The “mantel” of civil leadership is passed from Moses to Joshua.