Num 36.1-13 deals with what is called the “Laws of the Heiress” and it is in addition to a previous ruling. We learned in Num 27 that daughters can inherit family assets in the absence of male heirs. Here, the sons of Joseph brought a question to Moses concerning inheritance (v 2-4). The land was given and divided by lot into portions. Now the concept of “lots” is a major theme in the Scriptures. Purim (lots) is even a festival. Lots were cast every day in the Temple to see who would do what. This was to avoid jealousy and favoritism among the kohanim (priests). The two goats on Yom Kippur were designated by lot, Yeshua’s garment was given by lot and in Acts 1.26 Judas was replaced by lot.
So, if your tribe got good land by lot you could say, “Look what the Lord gave us as an inheritance!” If you got desert land and barren hills they could say, “This is our inheritance and there must be a blessing in it.” Why is it that God calls one guy to teach and not another? If you compare the two, you may wonder why God called that one to teach and not the other. It is like a “lot” and it seems random, but it isn’t. There is a level of probability and sophistication involved.
In Num 36.1-7 the question came up about a daughter who got her inheritance of land, but then wanted to marry someone from another tribe. Does that land now go over the the tribe of the man she marries? Moses says this was a good question (v 5) and begins to tell them that the woman who inherits must marry within the family of the tribe of her father (v 6). Since the tribes were large enough, this presented no problem. Besides, the land reverted back to the original owners at the Yovel every fifty years. No inheritance will be transferred from one tribe to another. This is said two times (v 7 and v 9). The bottom line is Israel cannot trade land among their own people.
But this brings up a question for today. If Israel could give up the land they had as an inheritance to someone from a different tribe, what makes them think they can give up the land of their inheritance to other nation now? A daughter could not intermarry with other tribes, and v 10-13 shows us how the daughters of Zelophehad did it. They married within their father’s tribe to keep it “within the family.”
In all these previous issues we have seen individuals give up something important, like the right to avenge (Ch 37), safety, the right to marry whoever they want (Ch 36) in order to benefit the community. Issues will always be there. The Nazi Party resolved these cases one way, the United States Congress another way. We need wisdom to resolve the issue of personal freedom versus community responsibility, and there lies the problem. If you cannot advance the “cause” there is no reason to do it.
What do we do when we are told by the Lord to do something, and yet we are presented with the dilemma that your job requires you to do something else? At what point do we believe? At what point do we say we are going to obey the Lord in regard to what he has told us? The secular person says that the Torah is full of “ancient commands and they don’t apply anymore.” But Yehovah said these commands were for the descendants as well. If we don’t obey them, our descendants will not get the full blessing.
If our fathers had obeyed the Lord, then we would have received a blessing from the Lord. However, our enemies have been a “prick in our eyes and a thorn in our side.” Paul used this term when he was talking about his enemies in 2 Cor 12.7-9 when he said, “And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me -to keep me from exalting myself.” In Hebrew this idioms means an adversary, to use, abuse, falsely accuse, slander and gossip (Num 33.55; Judges 2.3; Ezek 2.6, 28.24; Josh 23.13; Hos 2.6). A messenger (angel) was used to keep Paul from exalting himself, so trouble was stirred up everywhere he went in order to keep him looking to the Lord for help and think of himself as someone special. Trouble has a way of humbling us and this was to keep Paul “in bounds.” But the point is, this idiom denotes persecution and trouble.
We know that Messiah will restore all things and return us to our full inheritance. We are not doomed to “wandering in the wilderness” forever. We can establish justice on earth, like the revenge on the Midianites, and accidental manslaughter is not revenged (cities of refuge), etc.
This book ends with the sons of Israel in the plans of Moab (of father) by the Jordan River. It began with the nation “in the wilderness” and now they are close to going into the promised land, in fact, about as close as you can get. They are standing across from Jericho, and we need to remember what it took to get them to this point. God describes it as bringing them out “on eagles wings” in Exo 19.4. This term will be used again in the book of Revelation in describing how he will bring Israel out to the wilderness when fleeing from the False Messiah (Rev 12.14). When they left Sinai they struggled with the flesh, they murmured, complained and gossiped about one another. They were a generation of unbelievers and were condemned to die in that wilderness.
Yehovah led them for 38 years in the wilderness. They moved around but made no progress. There was mutiny (Korah) and murmuring. They were just running out the clock until that unbelieving generation died off. In their place, the children would be brought to maturity and brought into the land, and that is who is standing on the banks of the Jordan now. When they set out for the land a second time, and faced the same pressures their fathers did, they dealt with them better and that is why they made it the border. Spiritually many believers die in the “wilderness” because they will not trust the Lord or walk in emunah (faith/action/confidence). Many people live in the wilderness rather than on the doorstep of the promises. We should learn by their example (1 Cor 10.11) because we are poised to go “into the land” (Olam Haba) too.
There is a tradition that says when one finishes a portion of study they say, “Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek” which means, “Be strong, be strong, let us be strengthened.” We have received instruction from the book of Numbers. Now, utilize what we have learned and rise up to the next level.