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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 36

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

2. Anticipation of the Promised Land 33:50-36:13

"The section breaks down into two groups of three laws each, carefully introduced by the clause ’and Yahweh spoke to Moses’ (. . ., Numbers 33:50; Numbers 34:1; Numbers 34:16; Numbers 35:1; Numbers 35:9; cf. Numbers 36:6) and surrounded by the phrase ’on the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho’ (. . ., Numbers 33:50; Numbers 35:1; Numbers 36:13)." [Note: Ashley, p. 634.]

Verses 1-13

A review of the inheritance of women ch. 36

The revelation of the laws of the division of the land just explained precipitated the incident that Moses recorded here. What would happen if the heiress to her father’s property married someone from a different tribe? In that case the land of her father would become the property of another tribe and the tribal allotments would become intermixed and confused. The leaders of a family in the tribe of Manasseh brought the problem to Moses, namely, the family of Zelophehad who had only female heiresses (cf. Numbers 27:11).

God responded to the question they raised by giving the following ordinance. In cases like this the heiresses had to marry within their tribe. This prevented property from transferring to another tribe, but it still gave the heiresses some freedom to marry.

The five daughters of Zelophehad did as the Lord directed and married within their tribe of Manasseh. Perhaps Moses recorded the names of these women as a tribute to their commitment to do God’s will. This testimony would have encouraged all the Israelites to do the same.

"The reason this passage is placed here rather than with chapter 27 is twofold. First, it concerns the issue of tribal allotments, which is the focus of these last chapters of Numbers. Second, it is customary for large sections of the Hebrew Bible, including whole books, to conclude on a positive note." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 422.]

"Rather than being haphazardly separated and/or appended to the end of the book, Numbers 27:1-11; Numbers 36:1-13 form an inclusio that frames the deliberately unfinished story of the second generation. Zelophehad’s daughters exemplified the faith that tenaciously clung to the Lord despite adverse circumstances. In contrast to the shortsightedness and concomitant unbelief of the first generation, the daughters’ eschatological outlook provided the necessary impetus for obeying the stipulations of the covenant." [Note: Dean R. Ulrich, "The Framing Function of the Narratives about Zelophehad’s Daughters," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 41:4 (December 1998):538.]

The Book of Numbers closes with the positive example of obedience that these women provided for Israel. This book that is so full of negative examples of unbelief and disobedience ends optimistically. With people like Zelophehad’s daughters in Israel, the future of the nation looked promising.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Numbers 36". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/numbers-36.html. 2012.
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