This parashah can be divided as follows:
The covenant of peace with Phinehas
The order to harass the Midianites because of Ba'al Peor
The census of the next generation
The ruling over the daughters of Zelophad
The transfer of power from Moses to Joshua
And the commandments concerning the offerings for the daily sacrifice, Shabbat, New Moon, and Appointed Time services.
Last week we learned that the children of Israel brought curses upon themselves because they sinned by committing harlotry with the women of Moab. Balaam had instructed Balak that this was the only way to put a curse upon them; to let them curse themselves by breaking YHVH's commands. We learned that Phinehas, son of Eleazar, was zealous for the Lord and took matters into his own hands and went after the man and woman and destroyed them, causing the plague to end in the camp.
Phinehas risked his life and the LORD rewarded him by promising him a "covenant of peace".
Phinehas is regarded as a type of Messiah. The LORD promised him a "covenant of a perpetual priesthood." Why? Because he was zealous for God and made atonement for the people. Hebrew scholars see this as a clear picture of Messiah, which has a greater priesthood than that of Aaron.
It is noted by Hebrew scholars that the "vav" which appears in the Hebrew word for "shalom" in this verse is "broken". Scribes go to great lengths to make sure that there are no errors in the written Hebrew in the text, however this particular "vav" is made broken on purpose. This broken "vav" is said to be a picture of the broken "Messiah" who will come to deliver us. This is because the "vav" is represented by the number 6, which is the number of man. Hence, it represents the number of a man who is broken. In this verse the "man" has been broken so that he can bring forth the "covenant of peace". which will bring atonement for all of Israel. The blessing of Pinchas was a foreshadowing of the glory which was to come in the greater priesthood of Yeshua our Messiah. It will be an everlasting priesthood.
Another census is taken of the people since all the men of war who came out of Egypt have died in the desert, except for Joshua and Caleb. Women are not generally listed in genealogical records but we have 8 women who are listed in these records. In Numbers 26:59 two woman are listed. Jochebed, Amram's wife, a daughter of Levi. Scripture records she was the mother of Aaron, Moses and Miriam. She is not mentioned by name in the story surrounding Moses, but her name is listed in two genealogical records; here and in Exodus 6:20. Her name in Hebrew "Yokheved" supposedly means "YHVH is glory" and is notable as the first person in the Bible to have a name with the divine element of Yah in it. When Moses announces to the children of Israel that YHVH is the name of their God, perhaps he was familiar because it was embedded in his maternal lineage. Jochebed is interesting because according to Jewish history she was born just as Jacob and his family entered Egypt. She was then one of the midwives, along with Miriam, who spared the Hebrew children at birth. Jochebed was said to be the chief Jewish midwife, known as Shiphrah. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia she is also identified with Jehudijah of I Chronicles 4:18. This name "the Jewess" was given to her because, by disobeying Pharaoh's order, she founded the Jewish nation (Lev.R.i.3). In addition to being born just as the nation was coming into Egypt, she also left Egypt in the Exodus, and is said to have lived to enter the promised land. What a life she lived!!
We read of another women in Numbers 26:46 "And the name of the daughter of Asher was Sarah." She is also mentioned in Genesis 46:17 records as the sister of Asher's sons. I do not know who this woman was but she found her way into two genealogical records and no other mention is made of her. She must have been a great woman for God to make sure her name was mentioned like this.
We also find in this parashah 5 women who make their case before Moses about land inheritance. In Numbers 26:33 we read of the daughters of Zelophehad: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. Zelophehad was a son of Manasseh but he had no sons. These women approach Moses to claim right to a land inheritance since their father had no sons. Moses petitions YHVH on their behalf, and the LORD gives these women the land inheritance that should have been their father's. Because of their bravery, it is recorded in verse 8 that "thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, if a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughters."
A true leader/shepherd is concerned about what will happen to the people after he is gone. Moses is allowed to view the land but is told that he will die and will not be entering the promised land with the people. His request before God is "set a man over the congregation, 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."
Moses wanted assurance that the people would be cared for in his absence. A hireling does not care for the sheep, but a true shepherd does. Yeshua is our great shepherd who, like Moses, cares for the sheep.
Joshua is chosen to be the successor to Moses. He is brought before Eleazar the priest, and before the whole congregation. Moses "ordains" him by the laying on of hands (smik'hah).
O that we had more shepherds who really cared for the sheep in this day and hour.