Numbers 36

A Future Perspective and A Corporate Concern.

“Just as the LORD had commanded Moses, so the daughters of Zelophehad did. – Numbers 36:10 NLT

The book of Numbers ends on a seemingly strange note with the story of the five daughters of Zelophehad. According to the law of inheritance, these women would be given the land of their father Zelophehad, since they had no brothers. But the tribe of Manasseh brought up a potential problem to Moses. Since these women were going to inherit the land of their father upon his death, what would prevent them from marrying a man from another tribe and the land then transferring ownership from one tribe to another? In other words, what would happen if the heiress to her father’s property married someone from a different tribe? In that case the land of their father would become the property of another tribe and the tribal allotments would become
intermixed and confused.

God had a solution to this problem, but this chapter raises another interesting question: Why did God have Moses end the book of Numbers with this story? Why was the entire book concluded with a story about the daughters of Zelophehad? I think it has to do with a couple of things. First of all, the book of Numbers is about the future. From the very outset, it has been a history of the people of Israel and their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, but the real focus was not on the past or the present, but the future. As the book closes, the concern behind the question that the tribe of Manasseh raises has to do with the future. They seem to understand that this is a long-term situation. The land they are all inheriting is not just for those who are living at that time, but for future generations. There is a future aspect to this matter that causes them to be concerned and speak up.

The other issue is that this is not about the individual. While it was wonderful that these daughters were going to be able to inherit the land of their father, it ultimately was not about them. It was not even just about their tribe. It was about the people of God. And God’s concern was for the corporate well-being of His people. If these women had been left free to marry whoever they wanted to, the allotment of the land could have been potentially altered with dramatic consequences for the future. One tribe could have ended up with more land than another. Jealousy and fighting between the tribes could have resulted. So God comes up with a plan by which the daughters are free to marry, but within certain constraints. They had to marry someone from within their own tribe.

In our world of independence and self-centered philosophy, this concern for the corporate good is foreign to us. It’s all about me! I have to do what is best for me. The thought of sacrificing for the team is unheard of these days. Even our sports stars are all about themselves. Self-promotion and self-preservation are the norm. But God reminds us that it isn’t all about us. It is about the family of God. And while we are to live in the moment, we are to keep our eyes focused on the future. If not, we can develop a live-for-the-moment mentality that sacrifices the future for pleasures of today. The daughters of Zelophehad weren’t willing to do that. They did just as Moses directed them. They obeyed. They understood that God had their best interests and the interests of the people of God in mind. And they lived with their eyes on the future. Which is what each of us is called to do as children of God. It isn’t all about me and my happiness. This is about the people of God. This is about the future. Any sacrifice God calls me to make is for the good of the team.

Father, it has always been about the future for You. You have the end in mind. I can get caught up in the here and now and lose sight of the finished work You have in mind. I can also become so self-focused that I forget that You have a plan for the people of God as a whole. It is not all about me. Give me a future perspective and a corporate concern that allows me to listen to You instead of my own selfish desires. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men