Numbers 36 Then the heads of the clans of Gilead—descendants of Makir, son of Manasseh, son of Joseph—came to Moses and the family leaders of Israel with a petition. They said, “Sir, the LORD instructed you to divide the land by sacred lot among the people of Israel. You were told by the LORD to give the grant of land owned by our brother Zelophehad to his daughters. But if they marry men from another tribe, their grants of land will go with them to the tribe into which they marry. In this way, the total area of our tribal land will be reduced. Then when the Year of Jubilee comes, their portion of land will be added to that of the new tribe, causing it to be lost forever to our ancestral tribe.” So Moses gave the Israelites this command from the LORD: “The claim of the men of the tribe of Joseph is legitimate. This is what the LORD commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad: Let them marry anyone they like, as long as it is within their own ancestral tribe. None of the territorial land may pass from tribe to tribe, for all the land given to each tribe must remain within the tribe to which it was first allotted. The daughters throughout the tribes of Israel who are in line to inherit property must marry within their tribe, so that all the Israelites will keep their ancestral property. No grant of land may pass from one tribe to another; each tribe of Israel must keep its allotted portion of land.” The daughters of Zelophehad did as the LORD commanded Moses. Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah all married cousins on their father’s side. They married into the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. Thus, their inheritance of land remained within their ancestral tribe.
The question asked by the sons of Joseph seem legitimate but was the answer appropriate because it restricted daughters of Israel to marry only within their clan? Is there fairness and equity in God's ways and what might it speak to us today in our lives?
The law is always challenged with tough situations and it is vital for the judge to respond with divine wisdom given that the response will be precedent going forward and back. This situation was an outcome of the bylaw created when the daughters of Zelophehad requested Moses to review their situation caused by the distribution of land by inheritance (Numbers 27). Their father passed away and thereby they would be left with nothing.
Moses through God's leading agreed that their problem was legitimate and offered them their due portion because of their situation. This caused a new problem with regard to the inheritance being lost to another tribe when the daughter with the inheritance married outside of the tribe.
Again Moses responded with divine wisdom stating that the daughters with inheritance should marry within their tribe or else forgo their inheritance when they married outside. This would keep the balance between tribes and God's distribution of land would hold firm. The law was good but was rife with challenges such as these and it certainly calls for a greater law of grace to be brought in whereby love would prevail.
Thankfully the daughters of Zelophehad consented and married men from their own clan and all was well. The great saving grace in this was that each clan was significantly large and therefore the women were not generally restricted to find husbands.
This is such an important lesson to us about our faith walk. Finding our life partners is a significant decision and it is vital that we find one who is ordained by God. If we have been transformed by Christ into a new creation, then the foundation of our marriages should be Christ because we are called to love our spouses just as Christ loved the church. Paul reminds us of this too:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14 (NIV)
The restrictions our faith places on us are for our own spiritual blessing and and not to find loopholes in God's word to meet our own desires. It is vital that we see the great wisdom in it and follow God's leading to the blessings He has in store for us. Knowing that God loves us so dearly that He sacrificed His own son for our redemption should give us an insight into God's eternal love for us.
I pray today that as we come to the end of the book of Numbers, we would reflect on this journey that God has taken us to reveal His heart for us and His perfect gift of Jesus to us that we might find hope and eternal rest in the person of Christ.
In His Loving Service,