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Bible: What Does Numbers 34-6 Teach Us About Israel's Inheritance, Cities of Refuge, and Gilead?

Updated on September 15, 2016

The Land of Canaan


Canaan's Western Border

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The Land's Boundaries

Yahweh provides the boundaries of the Land to the children of Israel (vv. 1-12):

South—Wilderness of Zin bordering Edom, extending east to end of Salt Sea; south of Kadesh Barnea, it turns from Azmon and ends at the Mediterranean, the western border (vv. 3-6).

North—Border line extends from Mount Hor to the entrance of Hamath, then toward Zedad, ending at Hazar Enan (vv. 7-9).

East—from Hazar Enan to the east side of Ain, it descends to the eastern shoulder of the Sea of Chinnereth along the Jordan, ending at the Salt Sea (vv. 10-12).

Next, each of the nine and one-half tribes receives its inheritance form the LORD (v. 13).

He makes special note that the other two and one-half have already received theirs on “this side of the Jordan” (vv. 14-15).

Eleazar and Joshua together with one leader of every tribe are the responsible leaders to divide the inheritances (vv. 17-18).

Verses 19-29 list those leaders from each of the remaining tribes; Caleb’s name appears prominently as the leader of Judah.

Location of Cities of Refuge


The Six Cities of Refuge

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Levite Cities/Cities of Refuge

Numbers 35

Yahweh commands Israel through Moses to set aside forty-eight cities for the Levites to live in (six of which are refuges for manslayers, vv. 6-7) and common lands for them to tend to their animals (vv. 1-3).

These common lands extend from the wall outward one thousand cubits all around (v. 4).

Positioning the city in its midst, Moses measures two thousand cubits in each of the four directions to be used for common land (v. 5).

[How do verses four and five mesh?]

Each tribe must contribute cities; the larger ones give more cities than the smaller (v. 8).

The LORD expounds upon how to manage the refuge cities next (vv. 9-11).

The one who kills someone accidentally—whether Israelite, stranger, or sojourner—may flee there to avoid becoming a victim of revenge before he can stand trial (vv. 11, 15).

Of the six cities, three are on “this side of the Jordan” and three in the Land (vv. 13-14).

Now God hands down various judgments for various crimes.

The “avenger of blood” must execute murderers who use iron implements, stones in their hands, or wooden weapons to commit their crimes; additional methods of murder include pushing, premeditated hurling, or striking with the hand (vv. 20-21).

The reality of accidental deaths, however, the congregation must take into account and render “not guilty” judgments (vv. 22-24).

In such cases, the “manslayer” so delivered must stay in the refuge until the high priest’s death (v. 25).

If he leaves the city, not remaining in the prescribed site, and the avenger kills him, the latter is not guilty of murder (vv. 26-28).

Israel must obey the following “statute of judgment” (v. 29):

(1) Execute murderers on the strength of more than one witness; one is not enough (v. 30);

(2) Do not receive ransoms from murderers in lieu of their being executed (v. 31), or manslayers fleeing refuge before the high priest’s death (v. 32).

God warns Israel not to pollute or defile the land by allowing murderers to live (vv. 33-34).

The Daughters of Zelophehad


Bid to Save Gilead

Numbers 36

Gilead’s chief leaders speak to Moses and other Israelite fathers about the arrangement Moses made with the daughters of Zelophehad (vv. 1-2; cf. 27:1-11).

They reason that they will lose their inheritance if these daughters marry men from other tribes (v. 3); also, when the Jubilee comes, Gilead’s land will then belong to the tribe into which the daughters marry (v. 4).

Agreeing with these sons of Joseph, Moses commands that the daughters of Zelophehad must marry within the family of their father’s tribe in order to keep intact the law of inheritance (vv. 5-7).

The same law pertains to every daughter (vv. 8-9).

In obedience to Moses’ command, the daughters of Zelophehad marry their uncles’ sons, and their inheritance remains in their father’s family (vv. 10-12).

Moses concludes this book recording that he received these commandments from the LORD “in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho” (v. 13).


1. What did Moses’ first census reveal?

2. Which tribe did Moses not count with the others in the census? Why not?

3. Generally speaking, how did the sons of Israel arrange themselves on their journey?

4. What were the Levitical family names?

5. How many Levites did their census reveal?

6. How many more did the first-born males one month and above exceed the number of Levites? How did Moses redeem these extras?

7. Generally speaking, what were the specific duties of each of the sons of Levi?

8. Interact with the ritual prescribed for the man who has a “spirit of jealousy.”

9. Discuss the laws concerning the Nazirite vow.

10. Describe the ritual of the dedication of Levites.

11. How old must Levites be before beginning their ministry? At what age must they retire?

12. How did Israel know when to leave camp? What signal did they make?

13. What causes the “mixed multitude” to complain? What does God do to resolve the conflict?

14. Which prophesying elders cause Joshua to be jealous for Moses’ sake?

15. What happens to Miriam, and why does it happen to her? Interact with why the same did not happen to Aaron.

16. Describe the account of the twelve spies.

17. What were the results of their report? Whom did Yahweh reward, and whom did he punish, and how? What was Moses’ role in this emergency?

18. How did the disobedient try to atone for their wrong choice?

19. Distinguish between the laws regarding unintentional and presumptuous sins.

20. How many leaders, and which specific men, now contend with Moses over his sole leadership, and what does God do to resolve the conflict?

21. How does Israel react to this resolution, and how does God respond to their reaction?

22. What test does God command to prove His choice of Aaron as high priest?

23. Interact with the purification law involving a red heifer.

24. How does Moses transgress God’s commandment at Kadesh? What resulted from this sin?

25. Where do Miriam and Aaron die, respectively?

26. Which king refuses Moses permission to take a short cut through his land?

27. What part did the nehushtan play in the “salvation” of many Israelites?

28. What happens between Sihon and Israel? Between Og and Israel?

29. Why is Balaam cast as a false prophet?

30. What king hired Balaam to curse Israel? From what nation did he come?

31. To which peoples did Balaam issue separate oracles from God?

32. Where did Phinehas defend Yahweh’s holiness, and how did he do it?

33. How did Moses’ second census differ from the first?

34. How did Moses handle the controversy with the daughters of Zelophehad?

35. From what mountain did Moses view the Land, and whom did Yahweh commission to replace Moses?

36. What happens in Israel’s battle with the Midianites?

37. How does Moses divide the plunder?

38. Which tribes decide to stay on “this side of the Jordan”? How does Moses react?

39. How do their leaders convince Moses that they have not rejected the LORD?

40. For what purposes does Moses set aside forty-eight cities?

41. Interact with how Israel should administer cities of refuge.

42. How does Moses resolve the continuing problem of the daughters of Zelophehad?

43. Name the four reasons for Israel to blow trumpets.

44. What do the Levites receive in lieu of an inheritance?

© 2014 glynch1


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