[Numbers 36] Retaining Your Inheritance. In this chapter, a contingent of leaders inquire about a potential loss of inheritance, and the Lord gives them instructions regarding how to address the situation. We see that God defends the generational well-being of the people and defends women’s rights, which is almost unheard of in ancient times. What is your inheritance? You may not be an inheritor in natural things of this world, but you are an inheritor of God nonetheless. It is God’s heart that you receive and retain your inheritance.
[Num 36:1-13 KJV] 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: 2 And they said, The LORD commanded my lord to give the land for an inheritance by lot to the children of Israel: and my lord was commanded by the LORD to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother unto his daughters. 3 And if they be married to any of the sons of the [other] tribes of the children of Israel, then shall their inheritance be taken from the inheritance of our fathers, and shall be put to the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall it be taken from the lot of our inheritance. 4 And when the 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. 5 And Moses commanded the children of Israel according to the word of the LORD, saying, The tribe of the sons of Joseph hath said well. 6 This [is] the thing which the LORD doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry. 7 So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. 8 And every daughter, that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may enjoy every man the inheritance of his fathers. 9 Neither shall the inheritance remove from [one] tribe to another tribe; but every one of the tribes of the children of Israel shall keep himself to his own inheritance. 10 Even as the LORD commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad: 11 For Mahlah, Tirzah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married unto their father’s brothers’ sons: 12 [And] they were married into the families of the sons of Manasseh the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of the family of their father. 13 These [are] the commandments and the judgments, which the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan [near] Jericho.
The final chapter of the book of Numbers recounts the settlement of an issue regarding several daughters of a man named Zelophehad, who died without sons. Usually, the sons determined the disposition of any inheritance of a deceased father, but in the absence of sons, Moses needed an answer, and this chapter records the matter. Zelophehad is a man who died without sons. His daughters petitioned Moses for an inheritance in the land, so their father’s estate would not be lost. Zelophehad, according to Rabbinical sources, was the man in Nu. 15:32, who gathered sticks on the Sabbath and was stoned to death by the congregation. You would think that his inheritance would be denied to his heirs, but it was not. Even though his inheritors were daughters, God still preserved their heritage. This is unheard of in ancient times. In those days, women had no rights, and their legal protections barely rose above that of cattle.
The chief fathers (in v. 1) that bring this matter before Moses are the 70 elders Moses had previously appointed after being advised to do so by his father-in-law Jethro. This same body of 70 elders became the basis of the institution of leadership that evolved into the Sanhedrin that conspired in the death of Jesus in the first century. This issue of inheritance and intermarriage was crucial because Joshua would apportion the land of Canaan out to each family line by inheritance. If the family lines and tribal cohesion were to be clouded by intermarriage, then the ancestral claims would be lost. Thus these daughters of Zelophehad needed answers, and the 70 elders were correct to come before Moses to settle the man.
How does any of this translation to meaningfulness for the born again believer? The controversy as to inheritance reflects whether or not these daughters married in or out of their tribe. What is the application for us in the Christian faith? This commandment is an extension of what Paul taught in 2 Cor. 6:14:
[2Co 6:14 KJV] 14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
Whether you are a man or a woman, as a believer, God has an inheritance for you that is in jeopardy if you are not cautious about who you come into a covenantal relationship with, whether in marriage, business, or other binding relationships or friendships. Abraham jeopardized his destiny when he took Lot with him when he left Ur of the Chaldees. Likewise, when Abraham and Sarah chose the Ishmael solution over God’s plan, there was a significant problem created that affects worldly affairs down to this day. In the Christian faith, there is a mandate to live a separated life, and that mandate should register in how you conduct yourself and the relationship choices you make in life. If you live your alleged Christian faith out without respect to this truth, you put your testimony in jeopardy.
These daughters and the elders with them were dealing with a natural inheritance. What is your inheritance as a believer in Christ? 1 Cor. 3:8 says each one of us will receive rewards according to our labors, but that is not inheritance but reward. However, Rom. 8:17 says we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. 1 Cor. 6:9,10 tells us our inheritance can be lost:
[1Co 6:9-10 KJV] 9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Peter 1:3,4 tells us our inheritance is reserved for us in heaven:
[1Pe 1:3-5 KJV] 3 Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Eph. 1:12-14 describes our inheritance as only beginning with the seal of the infilling of the Holy Spirit:
[Eph 1:12-14 KJV] 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
It is a fact that you have an inheritance in Christ that is an extension and fulfillment that only begins with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon you. It can be lost due to inappropriate relationships we enter into, and it can be forfeited by habitual sin. When we receive the down payment of the fullness of the Holy Spirit in our lives, then we are just beginning to enter into the fulness of what God has for us. We must be circumspect to the things in life and in the world, such as corrupt and compromised relationship choices such as marrying unbelievers, partnering with unbelievers, etc., that pollute our testimony and create much unnecessary heartache in our lives and situations.