Devotionals Archive

Daybreak: Numbers 34:1 through 36:13

Jan 10, 2021

“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.” (Numbers 36:6)

Freedom . . . with boundaries. We are all familiar with it. We tell our elementary-age children, “You can fix whatever you want for lunch. Just be sure it’s not only cookies and cake.” We caution our teenagers, “Go and have a fun time, but be careful!” Our employer says, “Work this in when you can — but it needs to be done by the end of next week.”

Moses instructed the daughters of Zelophehad to, “Marry the person you want — within your tribe.” There was a reason for those boundaries. God had given detailed instructions on how the Promised Land was to be allocated. Marriage within the appropriate family would ensure proper inheritances. By reading verse 10, we see that these women obeyed.

God also gives us freedom with boundaries. Some of those boundaries are written in His Word. For example, the Bible tells us that marriage is good, but that a Christian should not marry an unbeliever. Fellowship is beneficial, but not with the scornful. We are to be good stewards of our assets, but not to love money.

Other boundaries are given by the still, small voice of the Spirit to our hearts. We may feel prompted to travel a different route to our destination: go, but don’t go this way. We may sense strongly that God wants us in a specific career, but He may not wish us to apply for a job with a particular company: this occupation, but not here. Perhaps we need to secure a different car, but we don’t feel clear about the one we are considering: buy, but not this one.

Sometimes we know the reasons for God’s boundaries. Other times we do not. Some boundaries are vital to our eternal salvation. Others may be only for our comfort. The important issue isn’t whether or not we understand why God puts the boundaries there. It is our obedience that counts!

Each of us makes choices about obedience every day. Are we tuned in to the Spirit and then following God’s instructions? Will we be obedient today?


God knew exactly what land He wanted to give the Children of Israel, and He gave Moses the details. Since survey crews were not readily available in those days, the landmarks were cities and geographical features. The area God promised was large, showing His generosity. However, the Children of Israel never did possess all of it, except for perhaps a short time during the reigns of David and Solomon.

The particular land areas were given to the tribes and families as an inheritance — God’s gift to them. These were determined by lot, and appointed individuals supervised the process.

The Levites were Israel’s ministers. They were given cities scattered throughout the land so everyone could be touched by their religious influence. Also, they received land for their flocks and herds.

Six of the Levites’ cities were designated as cities of refuge. Israel did not have a police system, so a victim’s family punished a murderer. A man who had killed someone could run to a city of refuge. The elders there heard his case and also heard the witnesses. If he was found guilty of murder, he was put to death. If the killing was accidental, he stayed in the city of refuge until the death of the current high priest, and then he could return home. He was protected only as long as he stayed in the city.

Punishment for murder was sure and severe, for the shedding of innocent blood would pollute the land. Numbers 35:34 says that God himself dwelt among the Children of Israel; therefore He did not want it defiled.

Since it was evident that God was concerned about the inheritance of each tribe, the problem put forth in chapter 36 was a valid one. If these women married men from other tribes, their inheritance would pass to the tribe into which they married. Moses took the problem to the Lord, and the Lord gave an answer. These women complied with the answer.

Covering thirty-nine years, Numbers ends with the Children of Israel on the edge of the Jordan River with the Promised Land in view. God’s instructions were in place. It was time to possess the land.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)

III.    Events on the plain of Moab
    B.    The preparation for entering Canaan
        6.    The instructions for the conquest and boundaries of the land
            b.    The boundaries of the land (34:1-12)
            c.    The men to apportion the land (34:13-29)
        7.    The instructions concerning Levitical and refugee cities (35:1-34)
            a.    The Levitical cities (35:1-8)
            b.    The refugee cities (35:9-34)
        8.    The instructions concerning the marriage of heiresses (36:1-12)
            a.    The request of Manasseh (36:1-4)
            b.    The clarification of Moses (36:5-12)
    C.    Conclusion (36:13)

A Closer Look

  1. How was a decision made about the number of cities each tribe should give to the Levites? 
  2. Why do you think Caleb was chosen as one of those who helped divide up the land?
  3. What do you think would have happened if the daughters of Zelophehad had refused God’s direction and married into another tribe?
  4. There is no indication of struggle on the part of these heiresses. If we are struggling to obey, what steps might we take to help encourage submission to God in our hearts?


Like Israel, we may be poised on the brink of the fulfillment of one of God’s promises in our lives, even if we are not aware of it. Will we be obedient, and go in to possess the promise?

Reference Materials