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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 27


Zelophehad, son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, son of Joseph, had daughters named Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. They came forward,


and standing in the presence of Moses, the priest Eleazar, the princes, and the whole community at the entrance of the meeting tent, said:


1 "Our father died in the desert. Although he did not join those who banded together against the LORD (in Korah's band), he died for his own sin without leaving any sons.


But why should our father's name be withdrawn from his clan merely because he had no son? Let us, therefore, have property among our father's kinsmen."


2 When Moses laid their case before the LORD,


the LORD said to him,


"The plea of Zelophehad's daughters is just; you shall give them hereditary property among their father's kinsmen, letting their father's heritage pass on to them.


Therefore, tell the Israelites: If a man dies without leaving a son, you shall let his heritage pass on to his daughter;


if he has no daughter, you shall give his heritage to his brothers;


if he has no brothers, you shall give his heritage to his father's brothers;


if his father had no brothers, you shall give his heritage to his nearest relative in his clan, who shall then take possession of it." This is the legal norm for the Israelites, as the LORD commanded Moses.


3 The LORD said to Moses, "Go up here into the Abarim Mountains and view the land that I am giving to the Israelites.


When you have viewed it, you too shall be taken to your people, as was your brother Aaron,


because in the rebellion of the community in the desert of Zin you both rebelled against my order to manifest my sanctity to them by means of the water." (This is the water of Meribah of Kadesh in the desert of Zin.)


Then Moses said to the LORD,


4 "May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, set over the community a man


who shall act as their leader in all things, to guide them in all their actions; that the LORD'S community may not be like sheep without a shepherd."


5 And the LORD replied to Moses, "Take Joshua, son of Nun, a man of spirit, and lay your hand upon him.


Have him stand in the presence of the priest Eleazar and of the whole community, and commission him before their eyes.


Invest him with some of your own dignity, that the whole Israelite community may obey him.


6 He shall present himself to the priest Eleazar, to have him seek out for him the decisions of the Urim in the LORD'S presence; and as he directs, Joshua, all the Israelites with him, and the community as a whole shall perform all their actions."


Moses did as the LORD had commanded him. Taking Joshua and having him stand in the presence of the priest Eleazar and of the whole community,


he laid his hands on him and gave him his commission, as the LORD had directed through Moses.



1 [3] He did not join . . . against the LORD: had he done so, he and his heirs could have rightly been deprived of the privilege of receiving a portion in the Promised Land.

2 [5-11] The purpose of this law, as also that of the related laws in Numbers 36:2-10 (heiresses to marry within the same tribe), Deut 25:5-10 (levirate marraige), and Lev 25:10 (return of property in the jubilee year), was to keep the landed property within the proper domain of each tribe.

3 [12] The Abarim Mountains: the range on the eastern side of the Dead Sea.

4 [16] The God of the spirits of all mankind: the sense is either that God knows the character and abilities of all men and therefore knows best whom to appoint (cf Acts 1:24), or, more probably, that God is Master of life and death and therefore can call Moses from this world whenever he wishes; cf the same phrase in Numbers 16:22, where "spirit" evidently means "the life principle."

5 [18] A man of spirit: literally, "a man in whom there is spirit": one who has the qualities of a good leader-courage, prudence, and strength of will. Cf Genesis 41:38; Deut 34:9.

6 [21] The Urim: certain sacred objects which the Hebrew priests employed to ascertain the divine will, probably by obtaining a positive or negative answer to a given question. The full expression was "the Urim and Thummim"; cf Exodus 28:30; Lev 8:8; Deut 33:8; Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65. Joshua was ordinarily not to receive direct revelations from God as Moses had received them.

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