Following Through: Numbers 36
In Summary: Numbers is over. We have reached the edge of the Promised Land, and now it’s time to wrap it up. Except for recapping it all through Deuteronomy, the wanderings are over. The people are ready to cross the Jordan into the Land of Promise.
There are a few final details to deal with. First of all, there’s a flashback to Numbers 27 and the case of Zelophehad’s daughters. These women were granted a special situation in the distribution of land by being alloted territory. Typically, only men were property holders, a fact common to most cultures in the region and time frame.
However, the daughters of Zelophehad were his only offspring and they were granted the right to his property. Interesting here is that the property allocation is based on who left Egypt, not on who entered Canaan: Zelophehad was due property to his family, even though he would never touch it. His daughters were not “married out” but continued the family line.
The final issue with this arose when others in the tribe became concerned about who the Daughters would marry. If they married into a different tribe, then the property would shift from Manasseh to another tribe. These leaders were concerned that their tribal prominence would be diminished if they lost the Daughters’ land. Moses then commands that the Daughters must marry within the tribe of Manasseh, securing the property into the tribe. The Daughters (named in Numbers 36:11) did as God commanded through Moses and married cousins.
(Insert Alabama related joke here.)
That’s the bulk of Numbers 36.
In Focus: The closing verse, Numbers 36:13, is worth focusing heavily on. This verse serves not as a summary for the chapter but as the summary for the entire book of Numbers.
This verse hits three major points:
First, THE SOURCE: YHWH, God of Israel is highlighted as the source of the Law given in Numbers. Whatever the people may have felt, the Law was from God. Any continuity between the laws of prior lands or neighbors was severed, and the issue was obeying not man or logic, but the Lord God Almighty.
Second, THE TIMING: the Law is given before the Israelites take the land. The responsibility is about to pass into the people’s hands, and God has been clear about it.
Third, THE INSTRUMENT: Moses has spoken and written the Law, but he is only an instrument in the hands of God. Because of this, the people are aware that the Word of God goes on, even as the human instrument changes.
In Practice: The, for us, the same three points:
First, THE SOURCE: If we think that the Israelites may have disliked God’s Law, consider how people react to it these days. Yet the source of the Word of God remains the Lord God Almighty. It is not a human invention that Jesus is the only way to salvation, or that God requires holiness. It is divine in origin, and must be obeyed.
Second, THE TIMING: Jesus even warned in Luke 14:26-27 that the Kingdom of God was not going to be an easy place for us, so we should be aware: their are consequences of coming to Christ in faith. The balance is tilted entirely in the favor of God’s grace, which is our salvation, but obedience results. As does rejection by this world. We should be aware of that.
Third, THE INSTRUMENT: God uses all manner of instruments to create the symphony of His work. Some of them are better than others. Some folks are just plain old out-of-tune, while a few are smuggling machine guns in their violin case. They were brought in to play and only harm. Yet we cannot hold the instruments against the Master. We listen, though, to the tune He creates through His people. Being His instruments, we strive to reproduce the tune beautifully. Being hearers, we strive to hear the beauty in the song behind the missed notes.
In Nerdiness: Now, onto the Nerd part. One aspect of Old Testament study questions whether or not the Pentateuch is a good division of the Old Testament. There is a suggestion that Deuteronomy and Joshua belong paired together, crediting Moses with Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.
This theory gains some credence with the closing line here in Numbers 36:13. It would setup the idea that Moses recorded all of the form of these books in Moab. (Now in Jordan, by the way, so go visit. Lovely place.)
Additionally, one should consider the impact a verse like this one makes on preceding material. The overall statement here is that the words before it are the very Words of God Almighty.
That’s pretty high claim.