And now the exciting conclusion to Numbers: Incest!
Well, to be fair, at only 12.5% identical genes, marrying one’s first cousin isn’t really much of incest. However, since cousins are more likely to share bad recessive genes, they’re more likely to come to the forefront than when people reproduce with others with more different genes. The increase of unwanted defects are only around 1-3%, which is about the same amount you’d expect from a mother giving birth at age 40, with which few people have a problem. However, these defects will compound themselves as generations of first-cousin marriage continue, so this amount should not be discounted all together.
But yeah, in Numbers 36:10-13, Zelophehad’s daughters are ordered by God not to marry anyone outside of their tribe, so their caretakers arrange for all five daughters to be married to their cousins so their inheritance remains in the tribe. And that is the way Numbers ends! There’s a nice light to go out on, eh? You probably didn’t know that the Israelites hail from Shelbyville.
I’ll do the book’s wrap up on Monday, but I just want to note one other thing. When Zelophehad’s daughters were first mentioned back in Numbers 27, they were listed in the order of Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah, but here in Numbers 36, they’re listed as Mahlah, Tirzah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Noah. Name order in the bible is a big deal because it shows birth order which is serious business to the ancient Israelites, even to the level of superstition. Which makes one wonder why are they listed in a different order now? The reasonable answer is, the authors either made another mistake, but biblical apologists don’t like to admit that. Instead, they argue that, since the five daughters were all equally smart and equally well-versed in the Torah, their name order is inter-changeable; spin doctors to the very last!