In 1979, archaeologists in Jerusalem discovered two small silver scrolls, probably worn as amulets and dating back to the late seventh or early sixth centuries b.c. Once these scrolls were unrolled and deciphered, a delicate process that took more than three years, they were found to be inscribed with part of the Aaronic blessing found in Numbers 6:24–26. These, according to Michael A. Grisanti in one scholarly introduction, “are the earliest known artifacts from the ancient world that document passages from the Hebrew Bible.” These verses from Numbers are the oldest physically confirmed words of Scripture!
The book of Numbers ends with a matter of case law involving the daughters of Zelophehad. They had been listed in the second census (26:33). Their original inquiry had led to God providing for daughters inheriting and allowing family lines to continue (27:1–11). Now the decision needed tweaking, to make sure that whatever happened the land would stay within the tribe (v. 9). Why was this so important? John H. Walton and Victor H. Matthews provide an answer in their Bible Background Commentary: “That is because the land was the gift of the covenant, so each family’s allotment was its share in the covenant.”
This episode with Zelophehad’s daughters wasn’t just a matter of case law. These women were faithful and obedient. The nation, unlike a generation ago, stood poised to trust God’s promises and enter the land. In both Hebrew and English, the last word of the book is “Jericho”—they’re ready to go! To conclude the book in this way, especially compared with the various episodes of complaining and rebellion scattered throughout previous chapters, constitutes a happy ending, one filled with faith, hope, and obedience (v. 10).