Monday, November 9, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 36

Chapter 36
Summary:The leaders of the clan of Gilead (of the clan of Machir, and of the tribe of Manasseh - son of Joseph) approached Moses and the leaders of Israel with a complaint.

They complained that God had allowed the daughters of Zelophehad to inherit their father's land, yet if these girls marry someone from another tribe, then that tribe would gain that land, and the tribe of Manasseh would lose that land and wouldn't redeem it at the "Year of Jubilee".

Moses conceded that the men had made a valid point and spoke to the people of Israel concerning God's verdict. Moses tells the people that the daughter of Zelophehad are to marry anyone they like - so long as they marry within their own tribe. Every daughter that inherits land upon the death of her father is only to marry within her own tribe, so that each tribe can keep their inheritance.

The daughters of Zelophehad - Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah - did as commanded and only married within their own tribe of Manasseh, so that their inheritance stayed within their tribe.

These are the commandments and judgments which God gave to Moses and the Israelites down in the plains of Moab, by the Jordan River, near Jericho.
Thoughts:This brief and final chapter in the book of Numbers is a clarification of Numbers: Chapter 27, in which the daughters of Zelophehad - Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah - had inherited their father's portion of land due to their father's death without having fathered a son.

The clan of Gilead complained to Moses about an oversight, arguing that if the girls married outside of their tribe of Manasseh, then the tribe of Manasseh would lose land - land that wouldn't be redeemed at the 50 year celebration of the "Year of Jubilee" - that would instead belong to their husband's tribe after marriage.

Moses decides that the men have a valid point and therefore orders that the daughters of Zelophehad are only allowed to marry within their own tribe. Like Henry Ford's famous quote about the choice of colors for his automobiles ("as long as it's black"), Moses decrees that the girls are allowed to marry whomever they want - so long as they only marry within their own tribe. It's unclear how incestuous such a marriage would be within a tribe of 52,700, but it's still disturbing to contemplate nonetheless.

So the daughters of Zelophehad do as Moses commanded, and it becomes a new statute that all daughters who inherit land are to marry from within their own tribe.

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