Numbers 26:55
Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot: according to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit.
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Numbers 26:55. By lot — The quantity of land, it seems, was to be assigned according to the number in each tribe, but the situation was to be determined by lot, both as to the tribes and as to individuals. For instance, it was determined by lot which of the tribes were to inherit in the south, which in the north, &c. But in that quarter where their lot fell a larger or smaller portion of land was appointed them, according to the goodness of the soil, and in proportion as they were more or less numerous. By these means all ground of quarrel among the several tribes was removed, and each acquiesced in his portion, as assigned by God himself, to whom the appeal was made by lot.

26:52-56 In distributing these tribes, the general rule of equity is prescribed; that to many should be given more, and to fewer less. Though it seems left to the prudence of their prince, the matter at last must be settled by the providence of God, with which all must be satisfied.This shows a decrease of 1,820 from the number at Sinai; a decrease due to the recent plague. 55. the land shall be divided by lot—The appeal to the lot did not place the matter beyond the control of God; for it is at His disposal (Pr 16:33), and He has fixed to all the bounds of their habitation. The manner in which the lot was taken has not been recorded. But it is evident that the lot was cast for determining the section of the country in which each tribe should be located—not the quantity of their possessions. In other words, when the lot had decided that a particular tribe was to be settled in the north or the south, the east or the west, the extent of territory was allocated according to the rule (Nu 26:54). By lot; which lots seem to have been cast only for the tribes, not, as some would have it, for the several families, for the distribution of it to them was left to the ruler’s wisdom, according to the rule now given, Numbers 26:54. Yet if any lot was too large for the tribe, they might give up part of their right to others, with the ruler’s consent, as Judah gave a share to Simeon and to Dan within his lot.

According to the names of the tribes, i.e. the lots shall go under the names of each tribe or each patriarch.

Notwithstanding, the land shall be divided by lot,.... That the division might appear to be according to the determination and will of God, and not left to the judgment and discretion of the chief magistrate, though bound by the above rule:

according to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit; that is, according as to whatsoever name of a tribe such a part or portion of the land comes up by lot, that shall their inheritance be: Jarchi says, the names of the twelve tribes were written on twelve scrolls of parchment, and twelve borders or limits of land on twelve others, and they were mixed together in an urn, and the prince put his hand into it and took two scrolls; a scroll came up with the name of a tribe, and a scroll with a border or limit expressed on it; and the lot, he says, was by the Holy Ghost, for Eleazar, at the same time, was clothed with Urim and Thummim (s); so that the people were certain that the disposition and division of the land was of God; but there were but nine tribes and a half, among whom the land of Canaan was divided, two tribes and a half settled on the other side Jordan, namely, the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh.

(s) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Biccurim, c. 1. sect. 5.

Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot: according to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit.
55. the land shall be divided by lot] Since the distribution was to be proportionate the purpose of the lot must only have been to decide roughly in what part of the country each tribe was to settle.

according to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit] The meaning is doubtful. ‘The names of the tribes of their fathers’ appears to be a periphrasis for ‘their tribes.’ If so, the meaning is either that individuals shall in every case possess land within the region assigned to their tribe, or (perhaps better) that no smaller division than a whole tribe is to be taken account of in the general distribution, and the property of clans and families must be settled privately within each tribe.

Verse 55. - Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot. This can only be reconciled with the preceding order by assuming that the lot was to determine the situation of the territory, the actual boundaries being left to the discretion of the rulers. Recourse was had as far as possible to the lot in order to refer the matter directly to God, of whose will and gift they held the land (cf. Proverbs 16:33; Acts 1:26). The lot would also remove any suspicion that the more numerous tribes, such as Judah or Dan, were unfairly favoured (verse 56). Numbers 26:55Instructions concerning the Distribution of the Land. - In Numbers 26:53, Numbers 26:54, the command is given to distribute the land as an inheritance among the twelve tribes ("unto these"), according to the number of the names (Numbers 1:2-18), i.e., to the tribes and families that contained only a few persons, they were to make it small; to every one according to the measure of its mustered persons (ל must be repeated before אישׁ). In Numbers 26:55, Numbers 26:56, it is still further commanded that the distribution should take place by lot. "According to the names on their paternal tribes shall they (the children of Israel) receive it (the land) for an inheritance." The meaning of these words can only be, that every tribe was to receive a province of its own for an inheritance, which should be called by its name for ever. The other regulation in Numbers 26:56, "according to the measure of the lot shall its inheritance (the inheritance of every tribe) be divided between the numerous and the small (tribe)," is no doubt to be understood as signifying, that in the division of the tribe territories, according to the comparative sizes of the different tribes, they were to adhere to that portion of land which fell to every tribe in the casting of the lots. The magnitude and limits of the possessions of the different tribes could not be determined by the lot according to the magnitude of the tribes themselves: all that could possibly be determined was the situation to be occupied by the tribe; so that R. Bechai is quite correct in observing that "the casting of the lot took place for the more convenient distribution of the different portions, whether of better or inferior condition, that there might be no occasion for strife and covetousness," though the motive assigned is too partial in its character. The lot was to determine the portion of every tribe, not merely to prevent all occasion for dissatisfaction and complaining, but in order that every tribe might receive with gratitude the possession that fell to its lot as the inheritance assigned it by God, the result of the lot being regarded by almost all nations as determined by God Himself (cf. Proverbs 16:33; Proverbs 18:18). On this ground not only was the lot resorted to by the Greeks and Romans in the distribution of conquered lands (see the proofs in Clericus, Rosenmller, and Knobel), but it is still employed in the division of lands. (For further remarks, see at Joshua 14:1.).
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