Numbers 27:21
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) After the judgment of Urim . . . —See Exodus 28:30, and Note.

At his word . . . —i.e., Joshua and the children of Israel were to abide by the decision of the high priest, which was obtained by means of Urim and Thummim.

Numbers 27:21. Who shall ask counsel for him — When he requires him so to do, and in important and difficult matters. From this and similar passages, it appears that the authority of the judge, or chief magistrate in Israel, however great, was not arbitrary, since in great emergencies he was obliged to have recourse to the high-priest, who was to ask counsel for him at the oracle. And some weighty matters were proposed to the congregation and princes, or senate of Israel, for their consent or decision. After the judgment of Urim — It appears from several passages, particularly 1 Samuel 14:18; 1 Samuel 23:2; 1 Samuel 28:6; 1 Samuel 30:7; 2 Samuel 5:19, that the high-priest, in consulting the oracle, was clothed with the ephod, or the sacerdotal vestment, to which belonged the breast- plate, and the Urim and Thummim. Thus, when David wanted to consult the oracle, he said to the priest, Bring hither the ephod: see 1 Samuel 30:7. In this and other places God is said to have answered him, but in what manner we are not told, only it appears to have been by a voice, 1 Samuel 30:3. But who uttered that voice, is a question. Spencer is of opinion that it was God himself, or an angel acting by commission from God. Le Clerc again contends that it was the high-priest himself that pronounced the words, but that he spake by divine inspiration: see on Exodus 28:30. At his word shall they go out, &c. — That is, at the word of the Lord, delivered by the mouth of the priest. This shows the nature of the Jewish government, and that it is not without reason called a theocracy, or divine government; since no enterprise of moment was to be undertaken without first consulting the oracle of God by the priest. However, this is to be understood principally of their going out, or not going out, to war; upon which occasion chiefly the oracle was consulted, especially to know the event of it: see Jdg 1:1; Jdg 20:18; 1 Samuel 14:18; 1 Samuel 28:6. We may observe, that though Joshua was greatly inferior to Moses in this respect, he generally consulted God by the high- priest; whereas Moses had immediate access to God himself, and spake with him face to face; (Deuteronomy 34:10;) yet God sometimes vouchsafed the same honour to Joshua, and spake to him without the mediation of the priest: see Joshua 3:7; Joshua 4:1; Joshua 4:15; Joshua 5:13.

27:15-23 Envious spirits do not love their successors; but Moses was not one of these. We should concern ourselves, both in our prayers and in our endeavours, for the rising generation, that religion may be maintained and advanced, when we are in our graves. God appoints a successor, even Joshua; who had signalized himself by his courage in fighting Amalek, his humility in ministering to Moses, and his faith and sincerity in witnessing against the report of the evil spies. This man God appoints to succeed Moses; a man in whom is the Spirit, the Spirit of grace. He is a good man, fearing God and hating covetousness, and acting from principle. He has the spirit of government; he is fit to do the work and discharge the trusts of his place. He has a spirit of conduct and courage; he had also the Spirit of prophecy. That man is not fully qualified for any service in the church of Christ, who is destitute of the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit, whatever human abilities he may possess. And in Joshua's succession we are reminded that the law was given by Moses, who by reason of our transgression could not bring us to heaven; but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, for the salvation of every believer.And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest ... - Joshua was thus to be inferior to what Moses had been. For Moses had enjoyed the privilege of unrestricted direct contact with God: Joshua, like all future rulers of Israel, was to ask counsel mediately, through the High Priest and those means of inquiring of God wherewith the high priest was entrusted. Such counsel Joshua seems to have omitted to seek when he concluded his hasty treaty with the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:3 ff).

Judgment of Urim - See Exodus 28:30 note.

20, 21. Thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him—In the whole history of Israel there arose no prophet or ruler in all respects like unto Moses till the Messiah appeared, whose glory eclipsed all. But Joshua was honored and qualified in an eminent degree, through the special service of the high priest, who asked counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord. Who shall ask counsel for him, when he requires him to do so, and in important and difficult matters. See Joshua 9:14 Judges 1:1 20:18 1 Samuel 23:9.

After the judgment, or, by or from the judgment, i.e. by seeking and receiving and communicating to him the judgment or sentence thereby given: or, by the judgment is here put defectively for by the breastplate of judgment, as it is called Exodus 28:30, as the testimony is oft put for the ark of the testimony. Or, concerning the judgment; or sentence, i.e. what the mind and will of God is in the matter. Or, after the manner or rite, for so the Hebrew word mishpat here used oft signifies.

Urim, understand, and of Thummim, for these two generally go together; only here, as also 1 Samuel 28:6, Urim is synecdochically, put for both Urim and Thummim. For the manner of this inquiry and answer, see on Exodus 28:30.

Before the Lord; ordinarily in the tabernacle near the second veil, setting his face to the ark, or otherwise presenting himself as in God’s presence, as Abiathar did by David’s direction, 1 Samuel 23:9, when they were both banished from the ark.

At his word, i.e. the word of the Lord, last mentioned, delivered to him by the high priest.

And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest,.... This was for the honour of God, whose priest Eleazar was, and whose oracle was consulted by him; for it is said (z), the high priest did not come into the presence of the king but when he pleased; and he did not stand before him, but the king stood before the high priest, as it is said, "and before Eleazar the priest shall he stand"; though it is commanded the high priest to honour the king, and to rise up and stand when he comes unto him; and the king does not stand before him, but when he consults for him by the judgment of Urim; and his posture seems to be different from other persons that consulted; for the same writer (a) observes, in answer to a question,"how do they consult? the priest stands, and his face is before the ark, and he that consults is behind him, and his face to the back of the priest;''whereas here Joshua stood before the priest, and so any king or supreme governor:

who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord: of the Urim and Thummim which were in the breastplate of judgment, and of consultation by them; see Gill on Exodus 28:30 and from this place the Jews (b) infer that consultation was not made by them for a private person, but for a king, or for one the congregation stood in need of:

at his word shall they go out, and at his word shall they come in; go out to war, and return from it, or do any service enjoined them; that is, either at the word of the Lord, or rather at the word of Eleazar the priest, declaring the will of God, which comes to much the same sense; or at the word of Joshua, directed by the high priest, according to the oracle of God; and he being under such direction, the people could never do amiss in obeying him, or be in any fear or danger of being led wrong by him; but he is mentioned in the next clause, as included in those that went out, and came in:

both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation; which Maimonides (c) interprets thus, "he", this is the king; "and all the children of Israel", this is the anointed for war, or he whom the congregation hath need of; "and all the congregation", these are the great sanhedrim, or seventy elders.

(z) Maimon. Hilchot Melachim, c. 2. sect. 5. (a) Maimon. Hilchot Cele Hamikdash, c. 10. sect. 11. (b) Misn. Yoma, c. 7. sect. 5. Maimon. Cele Hamikdash, c. 10. sect. 12. (c) lbid.

And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the {h} 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.

(h) According to his office: signifying that the civil magistrate could execute nothing but that which he knew to be the will of God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
21. the Urim] The sacred lot by which the priests ascertained the will of God.

On the Urim and Tummim see the writer’s note on Exodus 28:30.

This verse exemplifies the thought that Joshua’s dignity was to be less than that of Moses. Joshua must enquire of God’s will through the priest, whereas Moses always received commands straight from God Himself.

Verse 21. - He shall stand before Eleazar the priest. This points to the essential difference between Moses and Joshua, and all who came after until the "Prophet like unto" Moses was raised up. Moses was as much above the priests as he was above the tribe princes; but Joshua was only the civil and military head of the nation, and was as much subordinate to the high priest in one way as the high priest was subordinate to him in another. In after times no doubt the political headship quite overpowered and overshadowed the ecclesiastical, but this does not seem to have been so intended, or to have been the case in Eleazar's lifetime. Who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord. Rather, "who shall inquire for him in the judgment of Urim." בְּמִשְׁפַט הָאוּרִים. Septuagint, τὴν κρίσιν τῶν δήλων. The Urim of this passage and of 1 Samuel 28:6 seems identical with the Urim and Thummim of Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8. What it actually was, and how it was used in con-suiting God, is not told us in Scripture, and has left no reliable trace in the tradition of the Jews; it must, therefore, remain for ever an insoluble mystery. It does not appear that Moses ever sought the judgment of Urim, for he possessed more direct means of ascertaining the will of God; nor does it seem ever to have been resorted to after the time of David, for the "more sure word of prophecy" superseded it. Its real use, therefore, belonged to the dark ages of Israel, after the light of Moses had set, and before the light of the prophets had arisen. At his word. Literally, after his mouth, i.e., according to the decision of Eleazar, given after consulting God by means of the Urim (cf. Joshua 9:14; Judges 1:1). Numbers 27:21The Lord then appointed Joshua to this office as a man "who had spirit." רוּה (spirit) does not mean "insight and wisdom" (Knobel), but the higher power inspired by God into the soul, which quickens the moral and religious life, and determines its development; in this case, therefore, it was the spiritual endowment requisite for the office he was called to fill. Moses was to consecrate him for entering upon this office by the laying on of hands, or, as is more fully explained in Numbers 27:19 and Numbers 27:20, he was to set him before Eleazar the high priest and the congregation, to command (צוּה) him, i.e., instruct him with regard to his office before their eyes, and to lay of his eminence (הוד) upon him, i.e., to transfer a portion of his own dignity and majesty to him by the imposition of hands, that the whole congregation might hearken to him, or trust to his guidance. The object to ישׁמעוּ (hearken) must be supplied from the context, viz., אליו (to him), as Deuteronomy 34:9 clearly shows. The מן (of) in Numbers 27:20 is partitive, as in Genesis 4:4, etc. The eminence and authority of Moses were not to be entirely transferred to Joshua, for they were bound up with his own person alone (cf. Numbers 12:6-8), but only so much of it as he needed for the discharge of the duties of his office. Joshua was to be neither the lawgiver nor the absolute governor of Israel, but to be placed under the judgment of the Urim, with which Eleazar was entrusted, so far as the supreme decision of the affairs of Israel was concerned. This is the meaning of Numbers 27:21 : "Eleazar shall ask to him (for him) the judgment of the Urim before Jehovah." Urim is an abbreviation for Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30), and denotes the means with which the high priest was entrusted of ascertaining the divine will and counsel in all the important business of the congregation. "After his mouth" (i.e., according to the decision of the high priest, by virtue of the right of Urim and Thummim entrusted to him), Joshua and the whole congregation were to go out and in, i.e., to regulate their conduct and decide upon their undertakings. "All the congregation," in distinction from 'all the children of Israel," denotes the whole body of heads of the people, or the college of elders, which represented the congregation and administered its affairs.
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