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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 36

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



A law is established, that the daughters to whom the paternal inheritance descends shall not marry out of their own tribe, lest the possessions of the tribes should be mixed.

Before Christ 1452.

Verse 1

Numbers 36:1. The chief fathers of the families of the children of Gilead On account of the case of the daughters of Zelophehad, mentioned ch. 27: some of the chief heads of that family, foreseeing a great inconvenience which was likely to happen in the marriage of these women, make a new petition to Moses in full council, for timely preventing it by a proper law. By the sons of Manasseh most interpreters understand those of the half tribe of Manasseh who were settled in Canaan, because the daughters of Zelophehad had their inheritance among them, Joshua 17:0. But their being called the children of Gilead determines Calmet and Le Clerc to think those of the other half tribe are meant, who settled on the east side of Jordan: thus they speak not so much on account of themselves as of their tribe, nay, of the whole Jewish nation; for it was a common concern. See Poole's Synopsis.

Verse 4

Numbers 36:4. And when the jubilee—shall be The reason of the complaint was, that if heiresses should marry into other tribes, the paternal inheritance would thus be alienated from the tribe, contrary to the divine purpose; nor would the year of jubilee itself, though designed for preserving a perfect distinction of estates, tribes, and families, (Leviticus 10:13.) become any remedy for this inconvenience; since these inheritances, by the common right of marriage, would descend at the jubilee to the heirs of those women who married into another tribe, even though they should be redeemed by the tribe of Manasseh.

REFLECTIONS.—The heads of this tribe, foreseeing an inconvenience which might arise concerning the portion of Zelophehad's daughters, bring the case before Moses. As they were heiresses, and might therefore be greatly courted for their fortunes, (for money is too commonly the vile inducement to marriage,) should they marry out of their own tribe, their inheritance, which God had assigned them, would go to their husband's tribe, and might be the occasion of many quarrels in like cases in futurity. It is our wisdom to foresee and to prevent evils in prospect, and, especially in our settlements and families, to remove, as much as possible, every occasion of dispute.

Verse 6

Numbers 36:6. Let them marry to whom they think best, &c.— The Lord, being pleased to approve by Moses the prudence of this representation, ordered, that the daughters should be permitted to have their choice in marriage among those who were descended from the same stock: only with these two limitations, that they might not marry a man of another tribe, nor a man of another family in their own tribe; and, accordingly, they did actually marry their cousins german. See the learned Remarks of Grotius upon this subject in his Notes on Matthew 1:16. This law was made for the preservation of families as well as tribes, and was also the ground of the law which commanded a man to marry the wife of his brother who left no issue. Deuteronomy 25:5-6. See Ruth 4:6. Plato took nearly the same measures for the preservation of families. He ordered that every heiress should marry her nearest of kin; De Leg. lib. 2: p. 924. There was a law, too, among the Athenians nearly similar. It ran thus: "Virgins, possessed of an inheritance, are not to marry out of their own kindred; it being equitable that they should bestow themselves, with their goods, upon him who is nearest to them by birth:" and the reason is the same with that given in the law of Moses, that the house and fortune of the deceased ought to remain in the family. But in case a man died intestate, his estate went to his daughter's husband if he left no sons; and thus it might pass into another family, as appears from the titles of the same laws. See Petit, de Leg. Att. as before. The particular law, respecting Zelophehad's daughters, is passed into a general law for heiresses in Numbers 36:8.; for it should be remembered, that the case concerned no other women than those who were heiresses.

Verse 12

Numbers 36:12. And they were married into the families of the sons of Manasseh That is, according to the margin of our English Bibles, some who were of the families of Manasseh, from whom several families descended; for they did not marry promiscuously into any of the families of Manasseh, but into their father's family, which was the family of Hepher. Hence some would render the latter clause of this verse, in the house of the family of their father.

Verse 13

Numbers 36:13. These are the commandments and the judgments By commandments, we understand the precepts relating to the worship of God delivered in chapters xxviii, xxix, 30: By the judgments, the civil ordinances, or the laws of civil policy, respecting the division of the land, inheritances, and the cities of refuge; see ch. Num 27:11 Numbers 35:29. Both the one and the other, which begin at ch. Num 26:13 are mixed with divers orders which God gave to Moses for the numbering of the people, for the punishment of the Midianites, and for writing the journal of the Israelites in the wilderness. By this example and observation of the law for inheritances in the Holy Land, says Dr. Beaumont, the people of God are taught to hold fast their inheritance in his promises, and that right in Christ which they enjoy by faith; that as the Father hath made them meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, (Colossians 1:12.) so they may keep the faith and grace, which they have obtained, unto the end. 1 Kings 21:3.Ezekiel 46:18; Ezekiel 46:18. Jude 1:3.Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 6:12.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Numbers 36". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/numbers-36.html. 1801-1803.
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