International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
in-her'-i-tans (nahalah, "something inherited," "occupancy," "heirloom," "estate," "portion"): The word is used in its widest application in the Old Testament Scriptures, referring not only to an estate received by a child from its parents, but also to the land received by the children of Israel as a gift from Yahweh. And in the figurative and poetical sense, the expression is applied to the kingdom of God as represented in the consecrated lives of His followers. In a similar sense, the Psalmist is represented as speaking of the Lord as the portion of his inheritance. In addition to the above word, the King James Version translations as inheritance, morashah, "a possession," "heritage" (Deuteronomy 33:4 Ezekiel 33:24); yerushshah, "something occupied," "a patrimony," "possession" (Judges 21:17); cheleq, "smoothness," "allotment" (Psalm 16:5); kleronomeo, "to inherit" (Matthew 5:5, etc.); kleronomos, "heir" (Matthew 21:38, etc.); kleronomia, "heirship," "patrimony, "possession"; or kleros, "an acquisition" "portion," "heritage," from kleroo, "to assign," "to allot," "to obtain an inheritance" (Matthew 21:38 Luke 12:13 Acts 7:5; Acts 20:32; Acts 26:18 Galatians 3:18 Ephesians 1:11, 14, 18; Ephesians 5:5 Colossians 1:12; Colossians 3:24 Hebrews 1:4; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 11:8 1 Peter 1:4).
The Pentateuch distinguishes clearly between real and personal property, the fundamental idea regarding the former being the thought that the land is God's, given by Him to His children, the people of Israel, and hence, cannot be alienated (Leviticus 25:23, 28). In order that there might not be any respecter of persons in the division, the lot was to determine the specific piece to be owned by each family head (Numbers 26:52-56; Numbers 33:54). In case, through necessity of circumstances, a homestead was sold, the title could pass only temporarily; for in the year of Jubilee every homestead must again return to the original owner or heir (Leviticus 25:25-34). Real estate given to the priesthood must be appraised, and could be redeemed by the payment of the appraised valuation, thus preventing the transfer of real property even in this case (Leviticus 27:14-25). Inheritance was controlled by the following regulations:
(1) The firstborn son inherited a double portion of all the father's possession (Deuteronomy 21:15-17);
(2) the daughters were entitled to an inheritance, provided there were no sons in the family (Numbers 27:8);
(3) in case there were no direct heirs, the brothers or more distant kinsmen were recognized (27:9-11); in no case should an estate pass from one tribe to another.
The above points were made the subject of statutory law at the instance of the daughters of Zelophehad, the entire case being clearly set forth in Numbers 27; Numbers 36.
Frank E. Hirsch