Why does the story of Numbers end with the daughters of Zelophehad?
Numbers consists of three blocks of teaching, focusing on the events and teaching at three places: 1) Sinai (chapters 1-10) 2) Forty Years at Kadesh (chapters 13-19) 3) The Plains of Moab (chapters 22-36)
In between these three blocks of teaching, there are the travel narratives (from Sinai to Kadesh in chapters 11-12, and from Kadesh to Moab in chapters 20-21).
The first block of teaching at Sinai is designed to prepare Israel for their wilderness journey. The second block of teaching at Kadesh is all about Israelâ€™s refusal to enter the land, and the development of the priestly duties of the Levites and the sons of Aaron. The third block of teaching at the Plains of Moab is all about the new generation, and preparations for life in the Promised Land.
But Numbers is also oriented around the two censuses â€“ in chapter 1 and chapter 26. Thatâ€™s why the book received the name â€śNumbers.â€ť
Immediately after the second census, we were first introduced to the daughters of Zelophehad.
Back in chapter 27, Zelophehad died in the wilderness â€“ not in a rebellion â€“ but he had no sons, only daughters. So the five daughters of Zelophehad came and requested a possession among their fatherâ€™s brothers. Moses inquired of the LORD, and the LORD granted their request.
Now, probably just a few weeks later, as the people are discussing the division of the land (in chapter 34), they realize that there is another problem.
What if the girls marry outside of the tribe of Manasseh? If one of the daughters marries a man from Gad, then a part of the inheritance of Manasseh will be joined to Gad....