Moses, we’ve got woman trouble
- 1 Leaders of the Gilead clan in Manasseh’s tribe came to Moses with a problem. Gilead was a son of Machir and a descendant of Joseph, like everyone else in Manasseh’s tribe.
- 2 They said, “The LORD ordered you to assign the land to Israelites by random, throwing dice.1 And he told you to give Zelophehad’s share to his daughters.
- 3 But if they marry anyone from another tribe, our tribe’s share of the land is going to get that much smaller.3
- 4 The jubilee3 celebration that returns land to the original owner won’t make any difference in this case. It won’t get us back our land.
Women with property marry cousins
- 5 Moses told the people of Israel what the LORD told him:
This tribe of Joseph’s has a fair point.
- 6 This is what the LORD says about the daughters of Zelophehad:
“You can marry anyone you want, as long as he is part of your tribe.
- 7 Land assigned to one tribe should not get shifted into another tribe. Land designated to a tribe needs to stay with that tribe.
- 8 This marriage rule applies to all women of Israel who inherit property. They have to marry within their tribe. This is so they’ll keep the land with the right tribe.
- 9 Land can’t change tribes. Each tribe gets to keep its land.
- 10 Zelophehad’s daughters did what Moses said.
- 11 Zelophehad’s five daughters were Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah. They all married their first cousins.
- 12 They married sons of their uncle, their dad’s brother. So, the land stayed in both their father’s clan and in Manasseh’s tribe.
- 13 There, on the Moab plain along the Jordan River across from Jericho, the LORD gave these laws and rules to Moses to give to the Israelites.
More literally, they were to throw or draw “lots.” The “lots” may have been stones or animal bones marked in a way that produced random outcomes for “yes” or “no” answers, or for determining who goes first in a group. The idea is like throwing dice, with the high number going first. It’s also a little like “heads” or “tails” from a coin toss.
It was a man’s world. Once a woman with land married someone, that land (and the woman) became the husband’s property. If one of the Z ladies from the Manasseh tribe married a man from the neighboring Gad tribe, her land becomes part of Gad. Annexation by marriage.
Every 50 years, the Israelites were to free their slaves, forgive debts that people owed them, and return property rights to the original Israelite owner. So, if someone bought land from an Israelite, they were really just renting it until the next jubilee year.