- a) Moses was a very old man and was well beyond being the leader of an army, and
- b) The Lord had determined that Moses (due to his sin of rebelling against God) would not be allowed to enter the land. However, Moses would, at least, be allowed to SEE it.
So we have Moses ascending a mountain in a range of mountains that at that time was called Abarim, and from there getting an expansive view of the Promised Land that he would never get to set foot upon. Later we’ll find that this particular mountain is called Mt. Nebo. And the Lord says that shortly after Moses sees the land, he will die.
Then in verse 15, this Mediator of Israel shows his heart for the people by asking the Lord to appoint a new leader so that the community of Israel can be cared for. And the person Yehoveh chooses is Joshua, son of Nun.
Joshua is well qualified for the job because he has been Moses’ assistant for quite some time. He also has great merit in the Lord’s eyes because he was one of the two scouts who stood against the rest of Israel when they waffled and refused to trust God for victory over their enemies in the Promised Land.
While it sounds as though Moses will die immediately, in fact, it will be a little while yet before he passes. For there are yet many laws to give, and the land must be fairly allotted by Moses to each tribe.
Let’s notice an interesting difference between the death of Aaron the High Priest (Moses’ big brother) and the subsequent automatic appointment of his son Eleazar as the new High Priest, versus the impending death of Moses and the later NAMING of a new leader of Israel by the Lord.
First, Aaron didn’t ask Yehoveh (as did Moses) for a replacement High Priest because the line of succession was set and automatic. Aaron’s firstborn son (or another son if that firstborn was unsuitable for whatever reason) was to become the new High Priest, and this was to be the pattern from here forward for the High Priestly succession. However, there was no automatic successor (no inheritor of the position) from Moses.
Second, in fact, there was to be no real successor to Moses at all. Moses’ most important role (as Mediator for Israel) was not passed on. Joshua was to be a military leader of Israel not a Mediator. When Moses needed answers from the Lord, or the Lord wanted to tell Moses something, Yehoveh made direct communication with Moses. And this would not usually be so with Joshua. Joshua was NOT going to be the new Mediator of Israel.
I have mentioned before that the Lord has in all of history supplied but TWO Mediators, and two only. And that is all there ever will be. Moses was the first, Yeshua (Jesus Christ) the 2nd. Neither had a successor.
Oh, some of their duties were assigned; Joshua was to rule over, care for and lead Israel; and we Believers are to spread the Good News and demonstrate Christ’s sacrificial love. But we are not the replacement Mediators for Jesus we are but His disciples.
So with the coming death of Moses, it would be around 12 centuries before the Father would provide a new and better Mediator than Moses. And now that Yeshua is dead and risen, there will not ever be another. When He comes again, it will not be as Mediator, but as the Kinsman Redeemer.
Further, as we see in verse 18, Joshua is to be commissioned by the High Priest; Moses was appointed by God (this is the protocol for anointing a Mediator). Moses even appointed the priesthood. Then in verse 20, we see that even while Moses is still alive, Joshua is to receive some of Moses’ authority.
So we have a dual leadership that will go on for a short time: Moses and Joshua as a leadership team. It is understood that Moses is the senior and therefore has authority over Joshua. So we see Moses lays his hands on Joshua. The Hebrew is samak, which means to “lean on.” Later the term becomes formalized to samaka, which directly involves the ritual laying-on-of-hands.
Biblically, samaka, laying on hands, indicates a transference of some kind. Sometimes this transference is an authority (like this between Moses and Joshua), and at other times it can be the transference of guilt or sin from a man to an animal. That is why virtually every animal sacrifice employed samaka. The whole purpose of animal sacrifice revolved around transference and substitution. So this laying on of hands was ritual symbolism and painted quite a picture of what would come with the advent of Yeshua.
This chapter ends with Moses and Joshua standing before Eleazar, the High Priest, and the whole community watching while Joshua is in essence ordained with authority. It is done in front of all the people so that all will recognize Joshua as God’s choice, and will submit to his leadership.