Numbers 36 & Psalm 80

Numbers 36

    The heads of the fathers' houses of the clan of the people of Gilead the son of Machir, son of Manasseh, from the clans of the people of Joseph, came near and spoke before Moses and before the chiefs, the heads of the fathers' houses of the people of Israel. They said, “The LORD commanded my lord to give the land for inheritance by lot to the people of Israel, and my lord was commanded by the LORD to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother to his daughters. But if they are married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the people of Israel, then their inheritance will be taken from the inheritance of our fathers and added to the inheritance of the tribe into which they marry. So it will be taken away from the lot of our inheritance. And when the jubilee of the people of Israel comes, then their inheritance will be added to the inheritance of the tribe into which they marry, and their inheritance will be taken from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers.”

    And Moses commanded the people of Israel according to the word of the LORD, saying, “The tribe of the people of Joseph is right. This is what the LORD commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad: ‘Let them marry whom they think best, only they shall marry within the clan of the tribe of their father. The inheritance of the people of Israel shall not be transferred from one tribe to another, for every one of the people of Israel shall hold on to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. And every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the people of Israel shall be wife to one of the clan of the tribe of her father, so that every one of the people of Israel may possess the inheritance of his fathers. So no inheritance shall be transferred from one tribe to another, for each of the tribes of the people of Israel shall hold on to its own inheritance.’”

    The daughters of Zelophehad did as the LORD commanded Moses, for Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married to sons of their father's brothers. They were married into the clans of the people of Manasseh the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of their father's clan.

    These are the commandments and the rules that the LORD commanded through Moses to the people of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.

(Numbers 36 ESV)


Psalm 80

To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. A Testimony. Of Asaph, a Psalm.

    Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
        you who lead Joseph like a flock.
    You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
        Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh,
    stir up your might
        and come to save us!
    
    Restore us, O God;
        let your face shine, that we may be saved!
    
    O LORD God of hosts,
        how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
    You have fed them with the bread of tears
        and given them tears to drink in full measure.
    You make us an object of contention for our neighbors,
        and our enemies laugh among themselves.
    
    Restore us, O God of hosts;
        let your face shine, that we may be saved!
    
    You brought a vine out of Egypt;
        you drove out the nations and planted it.
    You cleared the ground for it;
        it took deep root and filled the land.
    The mountains were covered with its shade,
        the mighty cedars with its branches.
    It sent out its branches to the sea
        and its shoots to the River.
    Why then have you broken down its walls,
        so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
    The boar from the forest ravages it,
        and all that move in the field feed on it.
    
    Turn again, O God of hosts!
        Look down from heaven, and see;
    have regard for this vine,
        the stock that your right hand planted,
        and for the son whom you made strong for yourself.
    They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down;
        may they perish at the rebuke of your face!
    But let your hand be on the man of your right hand,
        the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
    Then we shall not turn back from you;
        give us life, and we will call upon your name!
    
    Restore us, O LORD God of hosts!
        Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

(Psalm 80 ESV)


Something to Consider

Numbers 36: We might recall the situation concerning Zelophehad (from the tribe of Manasseh) who passed away leaving behind five daughters but no son (Numbers 27). His daughters requested that they might inherit the land that would belong to their father's family, and Moses granted that request through the Lord's approval of the arrangement. However, now a potential problem is foreseen with this sort of adjustment made to the inheritance rules. If a woman who owned land married a man from another tribe then the man's tribe would gain that land which was promised and belonged to the woman's tribe.

Perhaps we can already see the temptations and evil that could arise under such conditions in which land could be reallocated through marriage. Therefore, God would not allow one tribe becoming enriched at the expense of another. Each tribe was to maintain its own inheritance, and to make sure of this, land-owning daughters were commanded to marry within the clans of their own father. 

At first glance, many will come to view such a command as another ancient restriction upon the rights of women. However, such a conclusion is simply not the case. Not only did this command eliminate future conflict and contention over land, but it also strongly protected women and the sanctity of marriage. The freedom to marry a man outside of her tribe would also promote the freedom for evil men to arrange marriages for the sake of obtaining more land. This would naturally have devastating consequences for the woman and inevitably lead to an even greater restriction upon her rights and dignity.

God's command for land-owning daughters to marry within their clan promotes common sense, the well-being of society and the sanctity of marriage. Can we not trust that in giving the command God would also faithfully provide the woman with a man worth marrying? May we open our eyes to examine the great care of God behind the commands of God. God is sovereign, and God is good. As our loving Father, God provides boundaries with perfect wisdom knowing that they will result in the ultimate joy and satisfaction for His children. Obedience shelters us under the sovereign hand of God, but rebellion will always runs the risk of subjecting us to the evil ways of evil men.