Numbers 36:4
And when the jubilee of the children of Israel shall be, then shall their inheritance be put to the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall their inheritance be taken away from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers.
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(4) And when the jubile of the children of Israel shall be.—Up to the year of jubile it was possible that the inheritance might revert to the tribe of Manasseh, either by purchase, or as the result of the marriages of the daughters proving childless. At the jubile the transfer of the inheritance to the tribe or tribes into which the daughters of Zelophehad might have married would become permanent.

Numbers 36:4. When the jubilee shall be, &c. — The jubilee itself, they remonstrate, though designed, among other purposes, to preserve a perfect distinction of estates, tribes, and families, would afford no remedy for this inconvenience, since these inheritances would descend, at the jubilee, by the common right of marriage, to the heirs of these women, should they marry into another tribe.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.Be taken away - i. e. be permanently taken away. The jubilee year, by not restoring the estate to the tribe to which it originally belonged, would in effect confirm the alienation.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].

Which God appointed principally for this end, to preserve the inheritance in the hands of the tribes and families to which they were first given. And when the jubilee of the children of Israel shall be,.... At which time inheritances were to be restored to the original proprietors of them; yet this would be of no service in the present case, but rather the contrary, since it would fix the inheritances of these daughters in another tribe or in other tribes into which they should marry; and so Aben Ezra and Jarchi interpret it, "though" there shall be a jubilee, that will be of no advantage; it will not remedy this inconvenience: for

then shall their inheritance be put unto the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received; it being one principal part of the business of the jubilee year to settle the inheritances of every tribe; and these daughters being married into another tribe, of consequence their inheritance would be placed there; or should it be sold by their husbands, or their sons, at the year of jubilee it would be restored to them as of such a tribe:

so shall their inheritance be taken away from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers; and thereby be a lessening of it; and every tribe being ambitious of preserving and increasing its grandeur, this affair sensibly affected the heads of this tribe.

And when the {c} jubile of the children of Israel shall be, then shall their inheritance be put unto the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall their inheritance be taken away from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers.

(c) Signifying that at no time could it return, for in the Jubile all things returned to their own tribes.

4. In the year of Jubile, i.e. every fiftieth year, all purchased land returned to its original owners, or their descendants. But the law of Jubile would not affect the cases in which land was inherited by persons of another tribe. It would, indeed, be inherited by descendants of Zelophehad in the female line, but this would not prevent it from being permanently severed from the tribe of Manasseh.

The law of Jubile is contained in Leviticus 25. See notes in the commentary in this series. The word ‘Jubile’ is formed from the Heb. yôbhçl, a ‘ram’s horn’ trumpet. The fiftieth year was called ‘the year of the yôbhçl,’ or, more shortly, ‘the yôbhçl,’ because it was ushered in by the blowing of trumpets.Verse 4. - When the jubilee of the children of Israel shall be. It is remarkable that this is the only reference by name to the Jubilee (יובֵל, jubeel; not jubilee, which is the vulgar form of the same word derived from the Latin jubiheus) to be found in the Scriptures. Some allusions more or less doubtful have been pointed out in the prophets, but the only one which seems incontrovertible is in Ezekiel 46:17, and belongs to the ideal regime of that vision. Jeremiah's right of redemption over the lands of his family was probably due to the fact that they were priestly lands (Joshua 21:18; Jeremiah 1:1; Jeremiah 32:7-9), and as such incapable of permanent alienation. It is, therefore, doubtful whether the Jubilee was ever actually observed, although the principle upon which it rested, the equity of redemption which no Israelite could divest himself of, was undoubtedly acknowledged (see notes on Leviticus 25). Then shall their inheritance be put unto the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received. It is again remarkable that the one explicit reference to the Jubilee should be only to an indirect consequence of its practical working. The Jubilee could not really transfer the property of the heiress to her husband's tribe, but it would in effect confirm that transfer, and make it permanent. In practice no property would be considered to have finally changed hands until the year of Jubilee, when an extensive re-settlement took place, and when all titles not successfully challenged would be considered as confirmed. Since the title of the heiress's children could not be challenged, and since any intermediate disposition of the land must then determine, the Jubilee would seem to effect the transfer of which it compelled the recognition. It is, however, none the less strange that the Manassites should have laid such stress upon the practical effects of a piece of legislation which had never yet come into use. It seems to point to the conclusion that the same thing had been customary among them in their Egyptian homes, and that they were acquainted, at least by tradition, with its actual working. If, therefore, the confinement of the unintentional manslayer in the city of refuge was neither an ordinary exile nor merely a means of rescuing him from the revenge of the enraged goel, but an appointment of the just and merciful God for the expiation of human blood even though not wilfully shed, that, whilst there was no violation of judicial righteousness, a barrier might be set to the unrighteousness of family revenge; it was necessary to guard against any such abuse of this gracious provision of the righteous God, as that into which the heathen right of asylum had degenerated.

(Note: On the asyla, in general, see Winer's Real-Wrterbuch, art. Freistatt; Pauly, Real-encyckl. der class. Alterthums-wissenschaft, Bd. i. s. v. Asylum; but more especially K. Dann, "ber den Ursprung des Asylrechts und dessen Schicksale und Ueberreste in Europa," in his Ztschr. fr deutsches Recht, Lpz. 1840. "The asyla of the Greeks, Romans, and Germans differed altogether from those of the Hebrews; for whilst the latter were never intended to save the wilful criminal from the punishment he deserved, but were simply established for the purpose of securing a just sentence, the former actually answered the purpose of rescuing the criminal from the punishment which he legally deserved.")

The instructions which follow in Numbers 35:29-34 were intended to secure this object. In Numbers 35:29, there is first of all the general law, that these instructions (those given in vv. 11-28) were to be for a statute of judgment (see Numbers 27:11) for all future ages ("throughout your generations," see Exodus 12:14, Exodus 12:20). Then, in Numbers 35:30, a just judgment is enforced in the treatment of murder. "Whoso killeth any person (these words are construed absolutely), at the mouth (the testimony) of witnesses shall the murderer be put to death; and one witness shall not answer (give evidence) against a person to die;" i.e., if the taking of life were in question, capital punishment was not to be inflicted upon the testimony of one person only, but upon that of a plurality of witnesses. One witness could not only be more easily mistaken than several, but would be more likely to be partial than several persons who were unanimous in bearing witness to one and the same thing. The number of witnesses was afterwards fixed at two witnesses, at least, in the case of capital crimes (Deuteronomy 17:6), and two or three in the case of every crime (Deuteronomy 19:15; cf. John 8:17; 2 Corinthians 13:1; Hebrews 10:28). - Lastly (Numbers 35:31.), the command is given not to take redemption money, either for the life of the murderer, who was a wicked man to die, i.e., deserving of death (such a man was to be put to death); nor "for fleeing into the city of refuge, to return to dwell in the land till the death of the high priest:" that is to say, they were neither to allow the wilful murderer to come to terms with the relative of the man who had been put to death, by the payment of a redemption fee, and so to save his life, as is not unfrequently the case in the East at the present day (cf. Robinson, Pal. i. p. 209, and Lane's Manners and Customs); nor even to allow the unintentional murderer to purchase permission to return home from the city of refuge before the death of the high priest, by the payment of a money compensation.

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