In this chapter, a second difficulty had arisen with the daughters of Zelophehad. We will remember from the twenty-seventh chapter that their father had died in the wilderness; and that consequently, since they had no brothers, they would have had no portion of inheritance when the division of the land of Canaan took place. Accordingly, they came to Moses concerning this issue; and their case was carried before the Lord, Who mercifully commanded that their father’s inheritance should be divided among them. This was perfectly satisfactory, as far as these girls themselves were concerned; but now another difficulty arose in the minds of the leaders of their tribe. These men were afraid that if the daughters of Zelophehad were permitted to marry into any of the other tribes of Israel, their inheritance would eventually pass into the inheritance of the tribe with which they had intermarried; and this would counteract the Lord’s intention that individual portions of inheritance were to remain forever in the tribes to which they were first allotted! Therefore, the elders brought this case before Moses again, so that he could legislate upon this point also.
Moses spoke to the people of Israel on this subject, according to the Divine Word. The Lord directed that these heiresses should marry within their own tribe of Manasseh. By doing this, their inheritance would not go to another family. God did not want the inheritances to move from tribe to tribe (verse 7), for this would create confusion among them by causing their estates to become entangled and their genealogies perplexing. Also, the Lord did not want one tribe becoming enriched by the diminishing and impoverishing of another; for they were all equally the descendants of Abraham, His “friend” (James 2:23).
The law that was laid down in this particular case was made perpetual; it was to be observed hereafter, whenever a similar case happened (verse 8). Daughters in Israel who were not the heiresses of their father’s property were allowed to marry into whatever tribe of Israel they desired (although we may suppose that, ordinarily, they kept within their own tribe). But daughters who were the inheritors of their father’s estate had to either quit their claim to the inheritance, or marry someone from their own tribe. Hereby each of the tribes could keep its own inheritance, and none would infringe upon another.
The daughters of Zelophehad submitted to the Lord’s appointment. How could they fail to marry well, when God Himself thus directed them? From this chapter, we may learn that all of our intentions and inclinations – especially in marriage – ought to be subjected to the will of God when it is made known to us. Although the Scriptures certainly allow and encourage affection and preference in this important relationship, they do not sanction foolish, ungovernable, and idolatrous passions that defy lawful authority and resolve upon nothing except self-gratification. Every true believer will take care that in the nearest and tenderest relationship of life, they are united only with one who is united to the Lord. A person who enjoys a strong relationship with Jesus will be prepared to enter into the truest, sweetest, and happiest marriage relationship.
From the twenty-sixth chapter to the end of this Book of Numbers, the children of Israel were encamped in the plains of Moab, on the opposite side of the Jordan River from Jericho. The Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land; their wanderings in the wilderness had come to an end. But how painful is the review of those forty years! All may be briefly summed up in a single verse of the Psalmist: “Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, for they have not known my ways” (Ps. 95:10). Although only the occurrences of the first and last years of these wanderings are recorded, we may conclude that they are not unfair specimens of the whole period; and if so, what a catalog of mercies and miracles on the part of the Almighty, and of acts of disobedience and rebellion on the part of the Israelites, is laid open to us! How can we be surprised at the result to which the Apostle to the Hebrews so plainly refers, when he says, “So we see that they could not enter in, because of unbelief”?
Now let us examine ourselves, dear brothers and sisters, and learn a lesson from the sins of the Israelites. The Word is preached to us, but is it received by faith on our part? Do we believe that our Promised Land is the good, happy, and blessed place that God has described it to be? Do we simply and eagerly embrace the one and only method of entering into it, which the Lord Himself has revealed? “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” said Jesus; “no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” Are we content to seek the Promised Land by “the king’s highway” – not intermingling it with the bypaths of human invention, but keeping to the plain and simple directions of our God? “He that hath the Son” – that is, he who believes on the Son – “hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” There is no perplexity in these directions; for “the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein.” The philosopher and the worldly-wise may err, for “not many wise men after the flesh are called.” But the simple-minded, prayerful follower of the Lord’s Word shall never err in such a great and vital matter!
Lord, we see how graciously You watched over Zelophehad’s daughters in all of their concerns, and we take comfort in the assurance that You are no less attentive to the needs of Your people now. We thank You for watching over us for good, night and day, to guide us in all our ways! Amen.
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illustration by LUMO – The Gospels for the Visual Age | Lightstock.com