I even wonder if this sacramental phrase (the laying on of hands) is perhaps imposed from the confirmation practices that developed over the history of Christendom. I wonder if it could mean quite the opposite of how people read it (tending towards magic).
Perhaps rather than Moses 'passing his powers' onto Joshua, it was Moses delegating tasks to the younger man and thus the lawgiver and prophet is supported by Joshua and Joshua in turn is then able to carry on the work.
The combination of סמך and יד occurs fairly frequently. E.g. Amos 5:19, [As if someone withdraws from the presence of the lion and the bear forces him, or he enters the house and supports his hand on the house wall and the snake takes interest in him.] Psalm 37:24 [For he will not fall thrown down, for Yahweh supports with his hand.] and throughout Leviticus and wherever a sacrifice is required (e.g. 1:24 [And let him support his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted for him, a cover-price on him.]). I have not done Numbers 27 yet where the other use of this phrase is for Moses and Joshua.
For a nice comment on verse 5 from the Talmud see Jim Davila's post here.
|וַיַּ֨עַל מֹשֶׁ֜ה מֵֽעַרְבֹ֤ת מוֹאָב֙ אֶל־הַ֣ר נְב֔וֹ רֹ֚אשׁ הַפִּסְגָּ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־פְּנֵ֣י יְרֵח֑וֹ |
וַיַּרְאֵ֨הוּ יְהוָ֧ה אֶת־כָּל־הָאָ֛רֶץ אֶת־הַגִּלְעָ֖ד עַד־דָּֽן
|1||And Moses ascended from the steppes of Moab to mount Nebo, the top of Pisgah that faces Jericho. |
And Yahweh showed him all the land, the Gilead to Dan,
|וְאֵת֙ כָּל־נַפְתָּלִ֔י וְאֶת־אֶ֥רֶץ אֶפְרַ֖יִם וּמְנַשֶּׁ֑ה |
וְאֵת֙ כָּל־אֶ֣רֶץ יְהוּדָ֔ה עַ֖ד הַיָּ֥ם הָאַחֲרֽוֹן
|2||and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, |
and all the land of Judah to the other sea,
|וְאֶת־הַנֶּ֗גֶב וְֽאֶת־הַכִּכָּ֞ר בִּקְעַ֧ת יְרֵח֛וֹ עִ֥יר הַתְּמָרִ֖ים עַד־צֹֽעַר||3||and the Negev and the basin of the crevasse of Jericho, the city of palm trees, to Zoar.||22|
|וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהוָ֜ה אֵלָ֗יו זֹ֤את הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נִ֠שְׁבַּעְתִּי לְאַבְרָהָ֨ם לְיִצְחָ֤ק וּֽלְיַעֲקֹב֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר לְזַרְעֲךָ֖ אֶתְּנֶ֑נָּה |
הֶרְאִיתִ֣יךָ בְעֵינֶ֔יךָ וְשָׁ֖מָּה לֹ֥א תַעֲבֹֽר
|4||And Yahweh said to him, This is the land that I swore to Abraham, to Yitschaq, and to Jacob, saying, To your seed I will give it. |
I have let you see with your eyes, but thereto you will not cross over.
|וַיָּ֨מָת שָׁ֜ם מֹשֶׁ֧ה עֶֽבֶד־יְהוָ֛ה בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מוֹאָ֖ב עַל־פִּ֥י יְהוָֽה||5||And there died Moses, the servant of Yahweh, in the land of Moab, at the mandate of Yahweh.||19|
|וַיִּקְבֹּ֨ר אֹת֤וֹ בַגַּיְ֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מוֹאָ֔ב מ֖וּל בֵּ֣ית פְּע֑וֹר |
וְלֹֽא־יָדַ֥ע אִישׁ֙ אֶת־קְבֻ֣רָת֔וֹ עַ֖ד הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה
|6||And he entombed him in the gorge of in the land of Moab in the forefront of Beth-Peor, |
but no person knows his tomb to this day.
|וּמֹשֶׁ֗ה בֶּן־מֵאָ֧ה וְעֶשְׂרִ֛ים שָׁנָ֖ה בְּמֹת֑וֹ |
לֹֽא־כָהֲתָ֥ה עֵינ֖וֹ וְלֹא־נָ֥ס לֵחֹֽה
|7||And Moses was a child of a hundred and twenty years at his death. |
Not lessened his eye, nor withdrawn his freshness.
|וַיִּבְכּוּ֩ בְנֵ֨י יִשְׂרָאֵ֧ל אֶת־מֹשֶׁ֛ה בְּעַֽרְבֹ֥ת מוֹאָ֖ב שְׁלֹשִׁ֣ים י֑וֹם |
וַֽיִּתְּמ֔וּ יְמֵ֥י בְכִ֖י אֵ֥בֶל מֹשֶֽׁה
|8||And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the steppes of Moab thirty days, |
and the days of weeping were completed for the lament for Moses.
|וִֽיהוֹשֻׁ֣עַ בִּן־נ֗וּן מָלֵא֙ ר֣וּחַ חָכְמָ֔ה כִּֽי־סָמַ֥ךְ מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶת־יָדָ֖יו עָלָ֑יו |
וַיִּשְׁמְע֨וּ אֵלָ֤יו בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וַֽיַּעֲשׂ֔וּ כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר צִוָּ֥ה יְהוָ֖ה אֶת־מֹשֶֽׁה
|9||And Joshua child of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom for Moses had supported his hands on him, |
and the children of Israel heeded him and they did what Yahweh commanded Moses.
|וְלֹֽא־קָ֨ם נָבִ֥יא ע֛וֹד בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל כְּמֹשֶׁ֑ה |
אֲשֶׁר֙ יְדָע֣וֹ יְהוָ֔ה פָּנִ֖ים אֶל־פָּנִֽים
|10||And no prophet has arisen yet in Israel like Moses, |
whom Yahweh knew face to face,
|לְכָל־הָ֨אֹת֜וֹת וְהַמּוֹפְתִ֗ים אֲשֶׁ֤ר שְׁלָחוֹ֙ יְהוָ֔ה לַעֲשׂ֖וֹת בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם |
לְפַרְעֹ֥ה וּלְכָל־עֲבָדָ֖יו וּלְכָל־אַרְצֽוֹ
|11||for all the signs and portents that Yahweh sent him to do in the land Egypt, |
for Pharaoh and for all his servants and for all his land,
|וּלְכֹל֙ הַיָּ֣ד הַחֲזָקָ֔ה וּלְכֹ֖ל הַמּוֹרָ֣א הַגָּד֑וֹל |
אֲשֶׁר֙ עָשָׂ֣ה מֹשֶׁ֔ה לְעֵינֵ֖י כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל
|12||and for all the resolute hand and for all the great fear, |
which Moses undertook in the sight of all Israel.