Numbers 36 – Women Heirs
In this final chapter of Numbers, the daughters of Zelophehad are instructed to marry within their tribe to maintain their tribe’s inheritance. This chapter continues on the theme of allocating the Promised Land. The basic idea is that with no sons, the property of Zelophehad goes to his daughters to help carry on his estate and his “name”. One of the principles of inheritance is that the property of the wife is given to her husband, and this chapter is largely how we figure that out.
The leaders of Manasseh complain that if Zelophehad’s daughters marry outside of Manasseh, then Zelophehad’s property will be permanently given to that other tribe. The tribal inheritances are meant to be permanent, so transferring property from one tribe to another breaks that permanence. This only becomes a problem when a woman inherits her father’s land and passes it on to her husband.
Moses responds by agreeing to close this tribal loophole. Any woman who inherits property from her father must marry within her father’s tribe. This serves the dual role of preserving her father’s name amongst his brothers and preserving the land within the larger tribe. To remedy this inconvenience the daughters were ordered to marry family of their father’s tribe. This was to be a law to all heiresses for the future in other tribes. The daughters followed the new law by marrying their father’s brother’s sons (cousins), thus keeping the inherited land in their own tribe.
Do you come from a family of all daughters? How was your inheritance carried out? Do you see benefit in keeping everything in your tribes name?