The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Numbers 36

Num 36:1

Purpose: To show that the inheritances of the LORD must be preserved intact.

Num 36:1-12: // Num 27:1-11. The proposed division of the land -- suggested by the census in Num 26 -- brought up a special question of considerable importance to Israel. Zelophehad, of the tribe of Manasseh, and of the family of Gilead, had died -- not in any special judgment, but along with the whole generation that perished in the wilderness. He had left no sons, and his daughters were anxious to obtain a "possession," lest their father's name should be lost among his family. By Divine direction, which Moses had sought, their request was granted, and it became a judicial statute in Israel ever after: that daughters or -- in their absence -- the nearest kinsman should enter upon the inheritance of those who died without leaving sons, and should if possible raise up that would carry on the name of the one who had died.

In all such cases, of course, the children of those who obtained the possession would have to be incorporated, not with the tribe to which they originally belonged, but with that in which their "inheritance" lay. Thus the "name" of a man would not "be done away from among his family." Nor was this statute recorded merely on account of its national bearing, but for higher reasons. The desire to preserve the name of a family in Israel sprang not merely from feelings natural in such circumstances, but was connected with the hope of the coming Messiah. Until he appeared, each family would desire to preserve its identity, and its legitimate claim to its own special portion of the Land of Promise.

Num 36:8

EVERY DAUGHTER WHO INHERITS LAND IN ANY ISRAELITE TRIBE MUST MARRY SOMEONE IN HER FATHER'S TRIBAL CLAN, SO THAT EVERY ISRAELITE WILL POSSESS THE INHERITANCE OF HIS FATHERS: The laws of inheritance meant that the land went with the man who had married the daughter who had inherited from her father -- like the daughters of Zelophehad. Thus the requirement to marry within the tribe would ensure that no marriages would destroy the Divinely appointed division of the land.

The counterpart in our ecclesial life is that our marriages should not upset the equilibrium of the ecclesia. So marriages to the unbeliever, for example, are totally unacceptable.
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