This is my 100th blog post! Woo hoo! These are also the last 2 chapters of the book of Numbers. There is pleasing symmetry in the fact that those events coincided.
Chapter 35- Instructions for setting aside land for the Levites. Instructions for “refuge cities” where people who accidentally kill someone may flee and live without being killed.
So, if you kill someone on purpose, the penalty is death. If you kill someone by accident, you can flee to a refuge city to await trial. If the people determine that the death you caused was indeed accidental, you then return to the refuge city and live there until the current high priest dies. If you leave the refuge city before that time, you’ll be killed.
The person responsible for killing the killers is referred to as “the avenger of blood” which is a fantastically dramatic name. It sounds like something straight out of Game of Thrones. If the avenger of blood finds one of the accidental man-slayers outside of the refuge city, he may kill him and will not be guilty of blood. It seems to me that a person who has been convicted of accidental manslaughter shouldn’t be subject to the death penalty like that.
Of course, I’m of the opinion that nobody should be subject to the death penalty. I think that killing someone for killing someone is akin to hitting your child for hitting another child. What kind of message does that send? That some violence is acceptable, even when you’re trying to prove that it isn’t.
Also of interest here is verse 30, “Whoever kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the testimony of witnesses; but one witness is not sufficient testimony against a person for the death penalty.” Well at least there’s something upon which we agree. Eye witness accounts are notoriously inaccurate.
Chapter 36- The daughters of Zelophehad are commanded to marry men from their own tribe so that their land inheritances will not become property of another tribe.
Remember these ladies from chapters 26 and 27? Their father had died, and they had no brothers, so God gave them permission to inherit their father’s land. Well, now the people are concerned that some of the land that rightfully belongs to the tribe of Manasseh will become property of some other tribe when the women marry, thus skewing the property distribution amongst tribes.
Gods solution? Incest!
Verse 6, “”This is what the Lord commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, ‘Let them marry whom they think best, but they may marry only within the family of their father’s tribe.'” And verse 8, “And every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel shall be the wife of one of the family of her father’s tribe, so that the children of Israel each my possess the inheritance of his fathers.”
Sigh. The Bible was doing so good for a moment there, allowing women to have property. Sadly, it seems that’s only okay until the time they themselves become a man’s property and relinquish all their belongings to him.
What a sad way to end the book of Numbers.