Chapter 36


The Inheritance of Zelophehad’s Daughters

    • The heads of the clan of Gilead, the descendants of Manasseh’s (one of Joseph’s sons) son Makir, came before Moses and the other family leaders of Israel to present their situation. They said, “The Lord instructed you to divide the land up by lot among the Israelites and also instructed to give our brother Zelophehad’s land inheritance to his daughters. But, if they marry men from another tribe, their land inheritance will become property of the tribes they marry into. Therefore, our tribe’s allotted inheritance will be reduced. Then, when the Jubilee year comes, their portion of the land will become property of their husband’s tribe permanently and lost to our tribe forever.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The five daughters of Zelophehad had petitioned for, and had been granted, equitable property rights (Numbers 27:1-11). Here the ramifications of that decision are discussed. Women who inherited land might marry men from another tribe; their land would then be lost by their ancestral tribe and transferred to their husband’s tribe. The Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-55) normally provided the means for land to return to its original owner, but it pertained only to land that was sold, not to land acquired through marriage.”

    • Moses gave the Israelites the Lord’s response, “The tribe of Joseph’s descendants is correct in the issue that they have proposed and the following is My command regarding the situation: Zelophehad’s daughters can marry any man that they choose, as long as he is within their tribe. None of the territorial land is to transfer from tribe to tribe- each tribe is to retain possession of the land that it was allotted for its inheritance. Therefore any daughter in any tribe who holds a land inheritance must marry within her tribe so that each tribe will retain its ancestral land inheritance. No land inheritance is to transfer from one tribe to another because each tribe is to retain its land inheritance.”

      • Guzik writes, “Seemingly, if a daughter married outside the tribe, she had to forfeit the inheritance – because not only did she have inheritance rights, but the tribe did also. Her individual right of inheritance was not the only nor the greatest consideration.”

    • Zelophehad’s daughters did as the Lord had commanded. Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah all married cousins on their father’s side and their inheritance remained within the tribe (the tribe of Manasseh). These are the commands and rules the Lord gave the Israelites through Moses while they were camped on the plains of Moab by the Jordan River across from the city of Jericho.