The laws of inheritance appeared over two hundred times, mostly in Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Psalms. We read specific instruction in Numbers 27:5-11, when the daughters of Zelophelad requested clarification from Moses regarding the disposition of their late father’s estate:
“So Moses brought their case before the Lord. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “The daughters of Zelophehad speak what is right; you shall surely give them a possession of inheritance among their father’s brothers, and cause the inheritance of their father to pass to them. And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall cause his inheritance to pass to his daughter. If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the relative closest to him in his family, and he shall possess it’” And it shall be to the children of Israel a statute of judgment, just as the Lord commanded Moses” (Numbers 27:5-11).
The inheritance laws are:
- The eldest son was to inherit a double portion (Deuteronomy 21:15-17); Jewish tradition is that only sons born before the death of the father were so privileged.
- If there were no sons, daughters were allowed to inherit their father’s land (Numbers 27:7,8)
- In the absence of direct heirs, a distant kinsman could inherit the land (Numbers 27:9-11).
- Because the land was given by God to the individual families, the people were not allowed to dispose of their land permanently. If they needed to sell it, it was to be returned during the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:23-38).
- The Levites had a very special and blessed inheritance from God: “The Levitical priests—indeed, the whole tribe of Levi—are to have no allotment or inheritance with Israel. They shall live on the food offerings presented to the Lord, for that is their inheritance. They shall have no inheritance among their fellow Israelites; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them” (Deuteronomy 18:1–2). The Lord was the “inheritance” of the entire tribe of Levi (Num. 18:20; Joshua 13:14, 33; 18:7; Eze. 44:28).
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