Chapter 26- Moses and Eleazar are commanded to take a census of the people. There are 601,730 men above the age of 20, and 23,000 Levites over the age of 1 month. Only Caleb and Joshua remain of people that were originally counted in the census in Numbers chapter 2, since God promised that none of them would get to enter the promised land.
So, color me 100% unsurprised that the original 603,550 people from chapter 2 are dead. In the intervening 24 chapters God has been cutting down his people by the thousands for having the gall to question his plans. What does surprise me is that the total population has remained relatively unchanged. It doesn’t specify what amount of time has elapsed between chapters 2 and 26- God said they would wander in the desert for 40 years before entering the promised land, but it can’t have been that long yet; if memory and Google serve me correctly, they don’t get into the promised land until the book of Joshua, two books from now.
So, these people must be breeding like rabbits for the population to remain stable, in spite of repeated plagues and slaughters brought on by their jealous god.
This chapter is mostly just a list of the sons of each tribe, but I think it’s interested that Zelophehad from the tribe of Manasseh didn’t have any sons, so his daughters got listed instead. Looks like women can be of minor importance, as long as they don’t have any brothers.
Chapter 27- The daughters of Zelopheahad come to Moses. Their father has died, and they have no brothers, so they ask for the right to inherit the land that should have been given to their family. God establishes rule of inheritance that say women can inherit if there are no male family members. God tells Moses that it’s about time for him to die, since he isn’t allowed to enter the promised land either. Moses asks who the next leader of the people will be, and God has him appoint Joshua.
Well there you have it. Women may still be second class behind men, but at least they don’t get completely screwed if they become brotherless orphans.
Also, one of Zelophehad’s daughters is named Noah. Because I’m addicted to googling things, I now know that Noah as a female’s name is pretty common in modern Israel, at least according to some baby name websites. Yay for unisex names!