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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Numbers 36

 

 

Verse 1

And the chief fathers of the families of the children of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of the sons of Joseph, came near, and spake before Moses, and before the princes, the chief fathers of the children of Israel:

The chief fathers of the families ... of Gilead. Being the tribal governors in Manasseh, they consulted Moses and "the princes" - i:e., heads of tribes (see the notes at Numbers 1:5-17; Numbers 3:24; Numbers 3:30; Numbers 3:35; Numbers 27:2; Deuteronomy 29:10) - on a case that affected the public honour and interests of their tribe. It related once more to the daughters of Zelophehad. Formerly these had applied, at their own instance, to be recognized, for lack of heirs male in their family, as entitled to inherit their father's property: now the application was made on behalf of the tribe to which they belonged-that steps might be taken to prevent the alienation of their patrimony by their alliance with husbands of another tribe. The unrestricted marriages of daughters in such circumstances threatened seriously to affect the tenure of land in Israel, as their inheritance would go to their children, who, by the father's side, would belong to another tribe, and thus lead, through a complication of interests and the confusion of families, to an evil for which even the jubilee could not afford a remedy (see the note at Leviticus 25:13).


Verses 2-4

And they said, The LORD commanded my lord to give the land for an inheritance by lot to the children of Israel: and my lord was commanded by the LORD to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother unto his daughters.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verses 5-12

And Moses commanded the children of Israel according to the word of the LORD, saying, The tribe of the sons of Joseph hath said well.

Moses commanded ... according to the word of the Lord. The plea appeared just and reasonable; and accordingly an enactment was made by which the daughters of Zelophehad, while left to the free choice of their husbands, were restricted to marry not only within their own tribe, but within the family of their father's tribe - i:e., one of their cousins. This restriction, however, was imposed only on those who were heiresses. The law was not applicable to daughters in different circumstances (1 Chronicles 23:22). The great object of these two exceptional laws was, that the name of the man who died sonless should not be lost (Numbers 27:4); and on this account the person who married an heiress was called after the name of his father-in-law, and also of his own father, so that he had thus two family names (see the notes at 1 Chronicles 2:21-23; Nehemiah 7:63).

Jewish writers, however, say that this ordinance, interdicting the transference of lands from a family in one tribe to one of another, was binding only in the early period of their settlement in Canaan (Selden, 'De Synedriis,' lib. 4:, cap. 4:, n. 1; 'De Successione in Bona,' cap. xviii). Here was an instance of progressive legislation (see also Exodus 18:1-27; Numbers 27:1) in Israel, the enactments made being suggested by circumstances; but it is deserving of special notice that those additions to, or modifications of, the law were confined to civil affairs, while the slightest change was inadmissible in the laws relating to worship or the maintenance of religion.

The tribe of the sons of Joseph hath said well. "The tribe of Joseph" is the scriptural equivalent for the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. In Numbers 13:11, "the tribe of Joseph" denotes Manasseh, as in this passage; while in Revelation 7:6; Revelation 7:8, it is applied to the greater tribe of Ephraim.


Verse 13

These are the commandments and the judgments, which the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan

These ... commandments ... in the plains of Moab. The Israelite encampment was on an extensive plateau north of the Arnon, and which, though wrested from the Moabites by Sihon and Og, still retained the name of its original possessors. The particular site, as indicated by the words, "Jordan near Jericho," is now called El-Koura-a large plain lying not far from Nebo, between the Arnon and a small tributary stream, the Waleh (Burckhardt). It was a desert plain on the eastern bank, and marked only by groves of the wild thorny acacia tree.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Numbers 36:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/numbers-36.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 25th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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