Numbers 36

Numbers 36 wraps up the book with a short chapter on how the land was to be divided but more importantly kept in the tribe over time.  You may recall that Manasseh’s tribe had an issue that concerned them in that there were few men to receive inheritance, so some of the land was to go to the daughters.  But they came to the realization that when they married, their inheritance might be lost if they married someone from a different clan.  So they come and ask Moses to help.  He gives all the people this direction: “They are free to marry anyone they choose as long as they marry within their ancestral clan. The inheritance-land of the People of Israel must not get passed around from tribe to tribe. No, keep the tribal inheritance-land in the family”.  Is that an oxymoron or what?  You are free to marry who you want as long as they are part of your own tribe.  That limits the options for sure.  Seemed acceptable to these folks as they married “within the families of Manasseh” just as Moses instructed.  But can you imagine any kind of directive like that today in our society?

There are certainly days that it would seem to make sense that somehow we change how marriage happens. (not that I ever experienced it with my bride)  It certainly doesn’t seem to work the way it happens today.  In prior cultures, and certainly still some today, marriage is not treated quite as flippantly as it is by many today.  Parents make choices for their kids on who they will spend the rest of their life with.  How about that as a responsibility?  But my understanding is that it often works and there is no rampant divorce happening.  I can’t actually imagine our culture being open to this kind of activity, but it certainly would make sense to add a little experience and wisdom to the process.  The “try before you marry” approach that seems to be prevalent isn’t working.  That is certainly not God’s way.  The big issue is that the foundation for marriage is not what it has to be if two people are going to truly be connected for life.  That union has to be about a relationship built spiritually, founded on God, where both are committed to walking in obedience to Him.  There are days after the honeymoon, or maybe even on it, when things don’t go well.  People are people and there will be days you don’t like each other.  If the foundation of marriage is just based on that, it will be a struggle to stay in the relationship, even with the commitment of the marriage vows, which seem to have lost their meaning to many.  I certainly don’t have the answer, but I do believe that marriage is not about making me happy.  As Gary Thomas writes in his book – marriage just may be intended to make us holy, not happy.  If we focus on that attitude and let it teach us how to live, committed to learning all God has to teach us through it, we get through the tough times and the blessings.  Moses limits the options for the people.  Maybe we need to take a look at what marriage really is from God’s perspective too!

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