52 And Yahweh spake unto Moses [Moshe], saying,

53 Unto these the land shall be divided for an inheritance [allotted for a nachalah] according to the number [ mispar] of names [shmot].

54 To many thou shalt give the more inheritance [To those large of number thou shalt give the larger nachalah] , and to few thou shalt give the less inheritance [smaller nachalah]: to every one shall his inheritance [nachalah] be given according to those that were numbered of him.

55 Notwithstanding the land [HaAretz] shall be divided by lot [goral]: according to the names of the tribes of their fathers [Shmot Mattot of their Avot] they shall inherit.


The Law saw to it that those who occupied the Covenant Land should be under no illusions from the very outset as to the moral obligations of their tenancy, or as to its conditional character. God had promised "I will bring you in unto the land ... and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord". The terms of the promise were significant: "I will give it you". There was no question at all of the nation's possessing a right to it: it was a gift. The Law, in characteristic fashion, employed a variety of devices in order to bring this fact home to the people.

The first of these devices was the method prescribed for the division of the Land immediately it was invaded. It stood to reason that large tribes would need far more territory than much smaller ones. So, on the basis of equity, God decreed to Moses, "To many thou shalt give the more inheritance, and to the few thou shalt give the less inheritance". This was just and proper: the extent of the territory assigned to each tribe had clearly to be determined by its needs.

"To everyone shall his inheritance be given according to those that were numbered of him".

Yet there was to be no question of the powerful seizing the best for themselves, or of human conceptions of justice deciding the actual location of each tribe's inheritance. Hence the rule-

"Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot. According to the lot shall the possession thereof be divided between many and few" (Num. 26: 52-56). 

Each tribe had the right and duty to send a representative to supervise the drawing of the lots (Num. 34 : 18), but the actual allocation of the tribal areas was to be the prerogative of God alone. Only He, as Owner of the Land, had the right to decide precisely where each tribe should settle in it.

For the same reason the sub-division of the tribal inheritance had to be conducted according to the same principle. 

"Ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance among your families". Once again the actual amount of land allotted to each family was to be in strict proportion to the population to be supported by it; but the actual location of each family's estate within the tribe's inheritance was, like the location of that inheritance itself, to be decided by no one but God. "Every man's inheritance shall be in the place where his lot falleth" (Num. 33 : 54)ยท

It was in order to maintain this principle as a rule for posterity that a special law was promulgated, forbidding daughters who were their fathers' sole heirs to marry men not of their own tribe,

"that the children of Israel may enjoy every man the inheritance of his fathers. Neither shall the inheritance remove from one tribe to another tribe" (Num. 36: I-9).

Law and Grace Ch 11.