Friday, July 20, 2012

Land Is Not To Be Passed From Tribe To Tribe

Numbers 36:1-13

“And the chief fathers of the families of the children of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of the sons of Joseph, came near, and spake before Moses, and before the princes, the chief fathers of the children of Israel: And they said, The LORD commanded my lord to give the land for an inheritance by lot to the children of Israel: and my lord was commanded by the LORD to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother unto his daughters. 

And if they be married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the children of Israel, then shall their inheritance be taken from the inheritance of our fathers, and shall be put to the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall it be taken from the lot of our inheritance.  And when the jubile of the children of Israel shall be, then shall their inheritance be put unto the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall their inheritance be taken away from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers.” (Numbers 36:1-4)

Under Jewish tradition and law, the inheritance was passed to the son.  Zelopehad had no sons, and when it had been called to Moses’s attention in Numbers 27, he asked the Lord how to handle it.  He was told that the land was to be given to the daughters because there was no son.  Under Jewish law, the father determined what tribe the child belonged to, and in the year of Jubilee the land reverted to the original owners.  Women who married outside their own tribe would thus pass ownership to the husband’s tribe.  There was concern that this might cause severe conflicts.

“And Moses commanded the children of Israel according to the word of the LORD, saying, The tribe of the sons of Joseph hath said well.  This is the thing which the LORD doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry.  So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.” (Numbers 36:5-7)

God instructed Moses that in such a case, the daughters could only marry within their own tribe to so the land did not become subject to the another tribes jurisdiction.  The inheritance was not to be transferred to another tribe.

“And every daughter, that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may enjoy every man the inheritance of his fathers.  Neither shall the inheritance remove from one tribe to another tribe; but every one of the tribes of the children of Israel shall keep himself to his own inheritance.” (Numbers 36:8-9) 

Not only did this principle apply to the family of Zelophehad, but to any woman who inherited according to Jewish custom.  She had to marry her own tribe to prevent conflict over ownership of land.

“Even as the LORD commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad: For Mahlah, Tirzah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married unto their father's brothers' sons: And they were married into the families of the sons of Manasseh the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of the family of their father.” (Numbers 36:10-12) 

In order to fulfill the requirement, Zelophehad’s daughters married their cousins so the land would remain in the tribe of Manasseh.

“These are the commandments and the judgments, which the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.” (Numbers 36:13)


  1. Thank you for the post, dfish. To be honest I came here for a little quiet. I was just reading a debate about RCC dogma and Mary's sinless nature and bodily assumption, etc. I added my two cents, but it disquiets me how happily people disobey the truth and hitch their wagon to fallible men; in this case the Roman magisterium. When tradition contradicts Scripture why will Roman Catholics not see this? I've often said people are reasoning creatures but not reasonable creatures. I do not exclude myself, either.
    Again, thank you for the post, and keep sharing God's word. It has been a benefit to me.

  2. Thanks for letting me share.

    It is easy to condemn Catholics for blindly following their leaders, but how many of the rest are doing the same thing. One example is how easy it is to condemn them for calling their priests father, based on Matthew 23:9 while calling our leaders pastor, reverend or doctor and ignoring Matthew 23:8 and 10.This is just one small area where we so often do the same thing.

  3. I agree entirely, Donald. In fact that is one reason why my wife and I have begun attending a church where a body of elders teaches and there is no pastor, which I believe has been unbiblically warped. The word "pastor" only appears in the NT once; the emphasis it carries today is enormous.
    I hear you though; if I claimed to be perfect I would certainly fall into Jesus' condemnation in Matthew chapter 7. But there is a difference between saved men and women putting too much trust in a fallible men, and an entire institute whose very tenets demand spiritual and mental capitulation just to belong. I'm venting a little, so please forgive me, this isn't directed at you. Thank you, however, for pointing out the other side of the coin.

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  5. The institution is the usual end result of placing too much emphasis on man. The RCC has just had more time to mature than most groups. The use of those titles is not a downplaying of the position, but as Matthew 23 declares those titles belong to God, not to man. God gave pastors, but it is a job description, not a title. Elder, bishop and pastor all relate to different aspects of the same job. Hope I didn't cause confusion with my comments.

  6. Not at all; I'm glad you listen. I oft-times refrain from debating online (or in person) simply because the conversation comes fast and furious. There is no time to digest arguments, no time to reflect or construct an adequate and thoughtful response, and no interest (for most) of listening to opposing view; we just want to strut spiritual or intellectual superiority. The quick answer is too easy; true progress might be made with opposing parties that have come to disarm hostilities rather than inflame them. That's why I prefer blogging, or long conversations where I can spend a while taking and asking questions. I value your insight on this matter, especially since you have been a Christian much longer than I have.

  7. I appreciate your interest. Scripturally we are instructed not to waste time trying to convince those who refuse to listen so you are making the right choice. The entire debate over elders and pastors appears to have originated with the protestant movement rebelling against the Catholic church's hierarchy. Paul directed Titus to ordain elders in every city then moved directly into describing the qualifications for a bishop, implying they are the same position. Jesus is referred to as the shepherd and bishop of our souls, and the word translated shepherd is actually the same as the word translated pastor.

    As we look at the three aspects we see the shepherd or pastor is the one who actually tends to the sheep, feeding and leading them. Bishop means an overseer, or steward, and refers to the more administrative aspect of ministry, although Jesus comments on the bshp make it clear he is directly involved with the people himself.

    Elder refers to those who are mature among the flock capable of taking those positions of leadership. Most of the present debate hinges on how the church is administered rather than the actual position, and as we are told there are different administrations but just one Lord. As Romans 14 states, we are not to get caught up in these questionable disputes.