These last three chapters of Numbers are primarily centered around the dividing up of the land of Canaan, the Promised Land. Although these last chapters may appear to be little more than real estate dealings, there are some important things to note here about God’s nature and the ideal nation.
Note, for example, how orderly and delegated the work of apportioning of the land was set to be. The limits of the land they were given was very clearly delineated first. Then, Joshua and Eleazar are given the task of allotting land (by God-given lots) to the various tribes who were settling on the western side of the Jordan River. Next, tribal leaders were designated to allot parcels of land to each family in the tribe. And in the next chapter God designates the cities of the Promised Land to be the allotment of the Levites, especially the Cities of Refuge. The order and process described is characteristic of the God whose natural “laws” are so dependable, interlaced, beautifully patterned, and finely honed that they have been held in awe by scientists of every age and culture. It is no wonder, then, that Paul should say, “for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:33, NAS95. As we follow the Lord, as His church follows His pattern, our world becomes more peaceful and orderly — not in a OCD sort of way, but as God brought the orderliness of the cosmos, first, out of nothing, and then out of the chaos, He brings harmony, unity, peace, order, and well-being into our lives and to our spirits.
But additionally, God strategically places the Levites, the tribe tasked with bearing the torch of teaching God’s word —
“So you shall come to the Levitical priest or the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall inquire of them and they will declare to you the verdict in the case. “You shall do according to the terms of the verdict which they declare to you from that place which the LORD chooses; and you shall be careful to observe according to all that they teach you. “According to the terms of the law which they teach you, and according to the verdict which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the right or the left. “The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the LORD your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel. “Then all the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again.” Deuteronomy 17:9-13, NAS95.
— in the cities around Israel. Cities are the natural hubs of civilization: the marketplace for farm produce, the center for trade, the seat of judicial decisions, and the heart of cultural and religious ideas. The rural world will very naturally always find its center in towns and cities. And in these cities the Levites, the teachers of the Law, were to always have a strong presence. Regrettably, the Levites didn’t do their job over the centuries and the people became ignorant of the Law and drifted away from it and the great Law Giver.
Our church assemblies are a little like the cities and towns of Israel in which the elders and preachers are entrusted with the stewardship God’s word to share and influence God’s people with it. Paul urged the young evangelist, “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”–” 1 Timothy 6:20, NAS95. May God’s modern stewards not drop the ball as the ancient stewards did, and let His people drift away from the truth.
Lastly, as a knotty problem of justice toward women, the daughters of Zelophehad, is partially solved, another legitimate concern and consideration is brought up — and wisely solved. The Lord is concerned about justice for everyone. Never let radicals get away with accusations that the worship of the God of the Bible is unfair, unjust, and slanted just toward men.