| Back to Home Page | Back to Book Index |


Numbers Chapter Thirty-six                            


Numbers 36

Chapter Contents

The inheritance of the daughters of Zelophehad. (1-4) The daughters of Zelophehad are to marry in their own tribe. (5-12) Conclusion. (13)

Commentary on Numbers 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.

Commentary on Numbers 36:5-12

Those who consult the oracles of God, concerning the making of their heavenly inheritance sure, shall not only be directed what to do, but their inquiries shall be graciously accepted. God would not have one tribe enriched at the expense of another. Each tribe was to keep to its own inheritance. The daughters of Zelophehad submitted to this appointment. How could they fail to marry well, when God himself directed them? Let the people of God learn how suitable and proper it is, like the daughters of Israel, to be united only to their own people. Ought not every true believer Israel, to be united only to their own people. Ought not every true believer in Jesus, to be very attentive in the near and tender relations of life, to be united only to such as are united to the Lord? All our intentions and inclinations ought to be subjected to the will of God, when that is made known to us, and especially in contracting marriage. Although the word of God allows affection and preference in this important relation, it does not sanction that foolish, ungovernable, and idolatrous passion, which cares not what may be the end; but in defiance of authority, determines upon self-gratification. All such conduct, however disguised, is against common sense, the interests of society, the happiness of the marriage relation, and, what is still more evil, against the religion of Christ.

Commentary on Numbers 36:13

These are the judgments the Lord commanded in the plains of Moab. Most of them related to the settlement in Canaan, into which the Israelites were now entering. Whatever new condition God, by his providence, brings us into, we must beg him to teach us the duties of it, and to enable us to do them, that we may do the work of the day in its day, the duty of a place in its place.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Numbers


Numbers 36

Verse 2

[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.

Our brother - Our kinsman.

Verse 6

[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.

To the family — They seem hereby to he confined not only to the same tribe, but also to the family of their tribe, as appears from the reason of the law, for God would have the inheritance of families as well as tribes kept entire and unmixed.

Verse 8

[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.

The inheritance of his fathers — This law was not general to forbid every woman to marry into another tribe, as may be reasonably concluded from the practice of so many patriarchs, kings, priests, and other holy men, who have married women of other tribes, yea sometimes of other nations, but restrained to heiresses, or such as were likely to be so. But if they had brethren, they were free to marry into any tribe, yet so that, if their brethren died, the inheritance went from them to the next a-kin of their father's tribe and family. And the principal reason why God was solicitous to preserve tribes and families unmixed was, that the tribe and family too, out of which the Messiah was to come, and by which he should be known, might be evident and unquestionable.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Numbers


36 Chapter 36


Verses 1-13

Numbers 36:1-13

Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry.

The law for the marriage of heiresses

I. The case stated (Numbers 36:1-4). These proceedings of the heads of this family were orderly, respectful, reasonable, and commendable.

II. The case adjudicated (Numbers 36:5-9).

1. The righteousness of the case was acknowledged.

2. The difficulty of the case was removed.

3. The decision in this case was made the law for all similar cases.

4. The decision of this case was of Divine authority.

III. The adjudication acted upon (Numbers 36:10-12). “They married their father’s brothers’ sons. By this it, appears,” says Matthew Henry--

1. That the marriage of cousin-germans is not in itself unlawful, nor within the degrees prohibited, for then God would not haw countenanced these marriages. But--

2. That ordinarily it is not advisable; for, if there had not been a particular reason for it (which cannot hold in any case now, inheritances being not disposed of as then by the special designation of Heaven), they would not have married such near relations. The world is wide, and he that walks uprightly will endeavour to walk surely.” (W. Jones.)


1. That marriage is a Divine institution.

2. That the obligations involved in marriage are binding and sacred.

I. That persons should not be coerced in marriage.

1. Personal choice as opposed to compulsion.

2. Personal affection as opposed to mere convenience.

II. That there are important considerations which should regulate the choice in respect to marriage.

1. As to property.

2. As to consanguinity.

3. As to health.

4. As to suitability.

5. As to character. (W. Jones.)

Sensible marriage

No laws, however excellent, express, or multiplied, can reach every particular case which may arise; and still room will be left for the exercise of sound judgment and common sense. But when these are regulated according to the true meaning of the Word of God, and in dependence on Divine teaching, they will guide us through all perplexities, as far as our immediate duty is concerned. Yet the Lord frequently leaves us to feel our difficulties, that we may be habituated to reflect to search the Scriptures, and to trust Him more simply. All our inclinations ought to be subjected to the will of God: and in contracting marriage, future consequences to posterity, as well as to ourselves and our connections, should be taken into consideration. The Scriptures indeed suppose that esteem, affection, and preference are requisite in this important relation: but they know nothing of that irrational, ungovernable, and idolatrous passion, which, regardless of all consequences, and in defiance all authority, rushes headlong upon gratification; which is neither moderated by discretion, nor subordinated to the will of God; which is not rational esteem, nor tender friendship, nor congenial affection, but something vastly more rapturous, unintelligible, and undefinable: and which, with all its refinements, is inconsistent with common sense, the interests of society, the happiness of domestic life, and the Christian religion. Finally, though it is prudent to foresee and prevent disputes about temporal property, it would be better if we were equally quicksighted and attentive in respect of our spiritual and eternal interests. But “the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.” (Thomas Scott.)

──The Biblical Illustrator