Num. 35-36 (the end)

The end of Numbers (not to be confused with The End of Certainty which is one of those obscure books you read that entirely transforms your world view) is pretty fascinating to me as a lawyer.  Chapter 35 deals with Refugee Cities and the death penalty.  Chapter 36 deals with how to handle an inheritance when (1) due to lack of male heir land passes to female tribe members and (2) said female tribe member marry into a different tribe.

It demonstrates that these societies were dealing with complex things like evidence and exceptions.  It allows you to see the core values underpinning a community permeate their legal code.  So, the daughters of Zelophehad could “marry anyone they please,” but only “as long as they marry within their father’s tribal clan,” Num. 36:6.  Which is interesting in a couple of ways.  One way is that you seem to in fact have these pretty powerful land owning ladies.  Further indicated by the fact that the author note that they complied with this requirement latter.  Num. 36:10-11 (where the daughters are named).  But also, you have this overriding value of patriarchy because the land went to their husbands, and keeping the tribal inheritance intact–which is also the point of the Jubilee.  Indeed, the question was not posed from the perspective of immediate transfer of land, but in the context of the Jubilee. 

The other big message for me is the care we should take in reaching back to Biblical legal systems.  We currently have a debate about Sanctuary Cities in the United States.  Those cities are entirely unrelated to the Sanctuary Cities in Numbers.  In Numbers, they are a place where a man accused of killing someone could await trial in safety.  P.S. if he leaves that city and the “avenger of blood” encounters him, the accused can be killed without penalty to the avenger.  Num. 35:26-27.  Not our system.  Also not our system, two witnesses are required before you put someone to death.  Num. 35:30.  In law school I worked on a death penalty case where there was literally zero physical evidence, let alone any eye-witness account.  Zero.

The point being, there is stuff for everyone to be happy with in Biblical legal systems because they are different, not more or less strict, then our code.

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