3.50 Numbers -- Moses' Parting Instructions
God reminded Moses of his sin of disobedience and his imminent death (Num 27:12-14). Moses used a very interesting phrase in his prayer asking God to appoint a new leader:
"May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community, to go out and come in before them" (Num 27:16-17).
"Mankind" is literally "flesh." Moses was calling on God as Creator of all humankind, not in His more limited role as "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." Thus even though Israel was special to God, there was a recognition that God was Lord of the earth and all its inhabitants.
Joshua was installed as Moses' successor (Num 27:18-23). In preparing the Israelites to enter Canaan, God commanded them to expel the inhabitants of the land:
"When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places" (Num 33:51-52).
He warned them that any inhabitants who remained "will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides." And He ominously concluded:
"And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them" (Num 33:56).
This is so important, because we see that God's severity was not unjust, it was not racially based. When the righteous tolerate the unrepentant in their midst, it is inevitable that they themselves will be corrupted. Thus we learn that tolerance is not necessarily a virtue: it can just as well be collusion with evil. And when the inevitable happens, when the larger society becomes debased by the tolerated and sinful remnant, then God will punish the majority with the original judgment of the unrighteous. Sadly, this was fulfilled throughout Israel's history.