Numbers 36:1
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:
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Numbers 36:1-3. The chief fathers of the families, &c. — We read before of a provision made for the family of the heiresses of Zelophehad, a branch of the tribe of Manasseh, chap. 27.; and though Moses had secured them a distinct inheritance, yet some of the chief heads of that family, foreseeing that a great inconvenience might possibly happen in the marriage of these women, made a new petition to Moses, in the presence of the princes, or chief fathers of Israel, for a proper law to prevent it. They represented to him, that in case these heiresses should marry into other tribes, the estates they were invested in would, of course, be alienated from their own tribe, and be incorporated into that in which they married, by the right of their husbands.

36:1-4 The heads of the tribe of Manasseh represent the evil which might follow, if the daughters of Zelophehad should marry into any other tribes. They sought to preserve the Divine appointment of inheritances, and that contests and quarrels should not rise among those who should come afterwards. It is the wisdom and duty of those who have estates in the world, to settle them, and to dispose of them, so that no strife and contention may arise.The daughters of Zelophehad had obtained an ordinance Numbers 28:6-11 which permitted the daughters of an Israelite dying without male issue to inherit their father's property. The chiefs of the Machirites, of whom Zelophehad had been one, now obtain a supplemental enactment, directing that heiresses should marry within their own tribe.CHAPTER 36

Nu 36:1-13. The Inconvenience of the Inheritance.

1. the chief fathers of the families of the children of Gilead—Being the tribal governors in Manasseh, they consulted Moses on a case that affected the public honor and interests of their tribe. It related once more to the daughters of Zelophehad. Formerly they had applied, at their own instance, to be recognized, for want of male heirs in their family, as entitled to inherit their father's property [Nu 27:1-11]; 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 on [108]Le 25:13].The inconvenience of daughters inheriting is remedied by a general command that all such marry in the tribe of their fathers, to which of them they shall think best, Numbers 36:1-9. They obey, Numbers 36:10-12. These commands God gave by Moses to Israel in the plains of Moab, Numbers 36:13.

The chief fathers of the families, who had the care and management of the public affairs of that tribe committed to them.

And the chief fathers of the families of the children of Gilead,.... The princes, as Aben Ezra; so the Septuagint version, which was the tribe of Manasseh, whose grandson Gilead was, as follows:

the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh of the families of the sons of Joseph, came near; to the house of judgment, as the Targum of Jonathan, the sanhedrim or court of judicature, consisting of the following persons:

and spoke before Moses; the Septuagint version adds, "and before Eleazar the priest", as in Numbers 27:2.

and before the princes, the chief fathers of the children of Israel: the princes of the several tribes; or it may be rather the seventy elders.

And the {a} 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:

(a) It seems that the tribes contended who might marry these daughters to have their inheritance: and therefore the sons of Joseph proposed the matter to Moses.


The chapter lays down a law that heiresses may not be married to anyone outside their own tribe. As in ch. 27, the present law is put in a concrete form. In ch. 27 it was ruled that the daughters of Zelophehad might inherit property, in order that the inheritance might not be alienated from the tribe of Manasseh. But it was realised that that law might, after all, be annulled if they were married to persons of other tribes. Here, therefore, the supplementary law is issued, forbidding them to do so.

Verse 1. - The chief fathers. The same phrase is more correctly translated in Exodus 6:25 "heads of the fathers." It is, however, probable that הָאָבור (fathers) is a contraction for בֵּית־הַאָבות (fathers' houses). The fathers' house was the next recognized and familiar division below the mishpachah (family). Probably the fathers' house included originally all the descendants of a living ancestor, who formed the bond of union between them; but this union no doubt survived in many cases the death of the common ancestor, whose authority would then devolve upon the oldest efficient member of the house. The families of the children of Gilead. "The mishpachoth of the Beni-Gilead" certainly did not include the Machirites, who were somewhat sharply distinguished from the other Manassites (see above on Numbers 26:29; 32:39 ff.); it is even doubtful whether they included the Gileadites proper, who took their name (and perhaps traced their descent) from Gilead, but not from his sons. It may be confidently assumed that the Machirites, who had received an extensive and remote territory beyond Jordan, had nothing whatever to do with this application. It was the other section of the tribe, the mishpachoth of the six sons of Gilead, who were yet to receive inheritance by lot in Canaan proper, to whom the matter appeared so serious that they came to Moses about it. Numbers 36:1The occasion for this law was a representation made to Moses and the princes of the congregation by the heads of the fathers' houses (האבות for בּית־האבות, as in Exodus 6:25, etc.) of the family of Gilead the Manassite, to which Zelophehad (Numbers 26:33) belonged, to the effect that, by allotting an hereditary possession to the daughters of Zelophehad, the tribe-territory assigned to the Manassites would be diminished if they should marry into another tribe. They founded their appeal upon the command of Jehovah, that the land was to be distributed by lot among the Israelites for an inheritance (Numbers 36:2 compared with Numbers 26:55-56, and Numbers 33:54); and although it is not expressly stated, yet on the ground of the promise of the everlasting possession of Canaan (Genesis 17:8), and the provision made by the law, that an inheritance was not to be alienated (Leviticus 25:10, Leviticus 25:13, Leviticus 25:23.), they understood it as signifying that the portion assigned to each tribe was to continue unchanged to all generations. (The singular pronoun, my Lord, in Numbers 36:2, refers to the speaker, as in Numbers 32:27.) Now, as the inheritance of their brother, i.e., their tribe-mate Zelophehad, had been given to his daughters (Numbers 27:1), if they should be chosen as wives by any of the children of the (other) tribes of Israel, i.e., should marry into another tribe, their inheritance would be taken away from the tribe-territory of Manasseh, and would be added to that of the tribe into which they were received. The suffix להם (Numbers 36:3) refers ad sensum to מטּה, the tribe regarded according to its members.
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