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These regulations and ordinances detailed in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are not just to help the Israelites live better together; they also affect the condition of the nation. Even more importantly, they reflect on the Lord. What the people do or fail to do affects the reputation of God, and that has more far-reaching implications than the people can imagine. God uses the people of His kingdom to demonstrate to the surrounding nations what it means to live in obedience and according to the will of God. It also impacts the purity of the worship made to the Lord and the environment of His holy tent and later the temple. His program in general that is being accomplished through the nation is colored by the moral behavior of the people.

36 The heads of the extended families traced back to Joseph through Gilead (son of Machir, son of Manasseh) approached Moses, the community’s leaders, and the heads of Israel’s extended families to share their concerns.

One critical issue related to Zelophehad (the man whose daughters claimed his inheritance because he didn’t have any sons) remains to be cleared up.

Zelophehad’s Family: We appreciate and accept that the Eternal One told Moses, my lord, that among the land given by lot to the Israelites, whatever would have gone to Zelophehad (our kinsman) as an inheritance should be passed down to his daughters. The trouble is, if they marry outside of our tribe into another Israelite tribe, their land will go with them. That will reduce the territory designated to our family and increase the other tribe’s inheritance. And in the great 50th year, the Sabbath of Sabbath years called the Jubilee of the Israelites, whatever land used to be ours through their connection to our family will certainly revert to whichever tribe they married into.[a] In other words, their inheritance will be forever taken away from the territory that belongs to our extended family.

Moses (to all the Israelites): The Eternal has said that these descendants of Joseph are right. 6-9 In light of it, He has determined that Zelophehad’s daughters should marry whomever they think is best, but they should do so within the clan of their extended family so that their land stays in the family. The same goes for any future Israelite daughters in a similar situation. Let them marry whomever they will, but only within the clan of their father’s extended family. There shouldn’t be any permanent transfer of land from one tribe to another because the territories should be fixed as each tribe’s inheritance for all time.

10-11 The daughters of Zelophehad didn’t argue or dissent. They obeyed the command of the Eternal One as articulated by Moses. Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah each married one of their cousins 12 from a clan of Manesseh (Joseph’s son). Thus, they and their land stayed within the Manasseh clan.

13 These are the directions and instructions the Eternal One gave through Moses to the Israelites before they entered Canaan, as they stood on the Moabite flatlands next to the Jordan River, east of Jericho.

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