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J4. Law of Inheritance.    [Make a Comment]

We are to receive inheritance according to established law and to that which is approved by God.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures


Numbers 27:1-11 (Maimonides RP248; Meir MP73; Chinuch C400)
Then the daughters of Tz'lof'chad the son of Hefer, the son of Gil'ad, the son of Machir, the son of M'nasheh, of the families of M'nasheh, the son of Yosef, approached. These were the names of his daughters: Machlah, No'ah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirtzah. They stood in front of Moshe, El'azar the cohen, the leaders and the whole community at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said, "Our father died in the desert. He wasn't part of the group who assembled themselves to rebel against ADONAI in Korach's group, but he died in his own sin, and he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be eliminated from his family just because he didn't have a son? Give us property to possess along with the brothers of our father." Moshe brought their cause before ADONAI. ADONAI answered Moshe, "The daughters of Tz'lof'chad are right in what they say. You must give them property to be inherited along with that of their father's brothers; have what their father would have inherited pass to them. Moreover, say to the people of Isra'el, 'If a man dies and does not have a son, you are to have his inheritance pass to his daughter. If he doesn't have a daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father's brothers. If his father doesn't have brothers, give his inheritance to the closest relative in his family, and he will possess it. This will be the standard for judgment to be used by the people of Isra'el, as ADONAI ordered Moshe.'"

Numbers 36:6-9
Here is what ADONAI has ordered concerning the daughters of Tz'lof'chad: 'Let them be married to whomever they think best, but they must marry only into a family from their father's tribe. In this way no inheritance of the people of Isra'el will move from one tribe to another; for each of the people of Isra'el is to hold on to the land for inheritance belonging to his father's tribe. Every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the people of Isra'el is to become the wife of someone from the family of her father's tribe, so that every one of the people of Isra'el will stay in possession of his ancestors' inheritance. Thus no inheritance will move from one tribe to another, for each of the tribes of the people of Isra'el will hold on to its own inheritance."

Deuteronomy 21:15-17 (Maimonides RP248; Chinuch C400)
If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and unloved wives have borne him children, and if the firstborn son is the child of the unloved wife; then, when it comes time for him to pass his inheritance on to his sons, he may not give the inheritance due the firstborn to the son of the loved wife in place of the son of the unloved one, who is in fact the firstborn. No, he must acknowledge as firstborn the son of the unloved wife by giving him a double portion of everything he owns, for he is the firstfruits of his manhood, and the right of the firstborn is his.

Joshua 1:6
Be strong, be bold; for you will cause this people to inherit the land I swore to their fathers I would give them.

Ezekiel 46:16-18
Adonai ELOHIM says this: 'If the prince turns over part of his hereditary property to one of his sons, it is his inheritance; it will belong to his sons; it is their possession by inheritance. But if he gives part of his hereditary property to one of his slaves, it will be his until the year of freedom, at which time it will revert to the prince, so that the prince's heritage will go to his sons. The prince is not to take over any of the people's inheritance, thereby evicting them wrongfully from their property; he is to give his sons an inheritance out of his own property, so that none of my people will be driven off their property.'

Luke 15:11-13
Again Yeshua said, "A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that will be mine.' So the father divided the property between them. As soon as he could convert his share into cash, the younger son left home and went off to a distant country, where he squandered his money in reckless living.

Supportive Scriptures


1 Kings 9:2-9
ADONAI appeared to Shlomo a second time, as he had appeared to him in Giv'on. ADONAI said to him, "I have heard your prayer and your plea that you made before me: I am consecrating this house which you built and placing my name there forever; my eyes and heart will always be there. As for you, if you will live in my presence, as did David your father, in pureness of heart and uprightness, doing everything I have ordered you to do, and observing my laws and rulings; then I will establish the throne of your rulership over Isra'el forever, just as I promised David your father when I said, 'You will never lack a man on the throne of Isra'el.' But if you turn away from following me, you or your children, and do not observe my mitzvot and regulations which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, worshipping them; then I will cut off Isra'el from the land I have given them. This house, which I consecrated for my name, I will eject from my sight; and Isra'el will become an example to avoid and an object of scorn among all peoples. This house, now so exalted- everyone passing by will gasp in shock at the sight of it and will ask, 'Why has ADONAI done this to this land and to this house?' But the answer will be, 'It's because they abandoned ADONAI their God, who brought their ancestors out of the land of Egypt, and took hold of other gods, worshipping and serving them; this is why ADONAI brought all these calamities on them.'


Proverbs 13:22
A good man leaves an inheritance to his grandchildren, but the wealth of a sinner is stored up for the righteous.

Proverbs 22:6
Train a child in the way he [should] go; and, even when old, he will not swerve from it.


Romans 4:13-15
For the promise to Avraham and his seed that he would inherit the world did not come through legalism but through the righteousness that trust produces. For if the heirs are produced by legalism, then trust is pointless and the promise worthless. For what law brings is punishment. But where there is no law, there is also no violation.

Galatians 3:18
For if the inheritance comes from the legal part of the Torah, it no longer comes from a promise. But God gave it to Avraham through a promise.


Romans 4:16-17
The reason the promise is based on trusting is so that it may come as God's free gift, a promise that can be relied on by all the seed, not only those who live within the framework of the Torah, but also those with the kind of trust Avraham had - Avraham avinu for all of us. This accords with the Tanakh, where it says, "I have appointed you to be a father to many nations." Avraham is our father in God's sight because he trusted God as the one who gives life to the dead and calls nonexistent things into existence.

Galatians 3:29
Also, if you belong to the Messiah, you are seed of Avraham and heirs according to the promise.


Hebrews 1:2
But now, in the acharit-hayamim, he has spoken to us through his Son, to whom he has given ownership of everything and through whom he created the universe.


Acts 20:32
And now I [Yeshua] entrust you to the care of the Lord and to the message of his love and kindness, for it can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who have been set apart for God.

Hebrews 9:15
It is because of this death that he is mediator of a new covenant [or will]. Because a death has occurred which sets people free from the transgressions committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.


Romans 8:16-17
The Spirit himself bears witness with our own spirits that we are children of God; and if we are children, then we are also heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with the Messiah - provided we are suffering with him in order also to be glorified with him.

Ephesians 1:11-14
Also in union with him we were given an inheritance, we who were picked in advance according to the purpose of the One who effects everything in keeping with the decision of his will, so that we who earlier had put our hope in the Messiah would bring him praise commensurate with his glory. Furthermore, you who heard the message of the truth, the Good News offering you deliverance, and put your trust in the Messiah were sealed by him with the promised Ruach HaKodesh, who guarantees our inheritance until we come into possession of it and thus bring him praise commensurate with his glory.

Titus 3:4-7
But when the kindness and love for mankind of God our Deliverer was revealed, he delivered us. It was not on the ground of any righteous deeds we had done, but on the ground of his own mercy. He did it by means of the mikveh of rebirth and the renewal brought about by the Ruach HaKodesh, whom he poured out on us generously through Yeshua the Messiah, our Deliverer. He did it so that by his grace we might come to be considered righteous by God and become heirs, with the certain hope of eternal life.

1 Peter 1:3-4
Praised be God, Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who, in keeping with his great mercy, has caused us, through the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah from the dead, to be born again to a living hope, to an inheritance that cannot decay, spoil or fade, kept safe for you in heaven.


Ephesians 3:5-6
In past generations it was not made known to mankind, as the Spirit is now revealing it to his emissaries and prophets, that in union with the Messiah and through the Good News the Gentiles were to be joint heirs, a joint body and joint sharers with the Jews in what God has promised.


Colossians 1:11-12
We pray that you will be continually strengthened with all the power that comes from his glorious might; so that you will be able to persevere and be patient in any situation, joyfully giving thanks to the Father for having made you fit to share in the inheritance of his people in the light.


Joshua 14:9
On that day Moshe swore, 'Surely the land where your foot has been will be the inheritance for you and your descendants forever, because you have followed ADONAI my God completely.'

Psalm 37:29
The righteous will inherit the land and live in it forever.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Don't you know that unrighteous people will have no share in the Kingdom of God? Don't delude yourselves - people who engage in sex before marriage, who worship idols, who engage in sex after marriage with someone other than their spouse, who engage in active or passive homosexuality, who steal, who are greedy, who get drunk, who assail people with contemptuous language, who rob - none of them will share in the Kingdom of God.

Galatians 3:19-21
So then, why the legal part of the Torah? It was added in order to create transgressions, until the coming of the seed about whom the promise had been made. Moreover, it was handed down through angels and a mediator. Now a mediator implies more than one, but God is one. Does this mean that the legal part of the Torah stands in opposition to God's promises? Heaven forbid! For if the legal part of the Torah which God gave had had in itself the power to give life, then righteousness really would have come by legalistically following such a Torah.

Ephesians 5:5-7
For of this you can be sure: every sexually immoral, impure or greedy person - that is, every idol-worshipper - has no share in the Kingdom of the Messiah and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty talk; for it is because of these things that God's judgment is coming on those who disobey him. So don't become partners with them!

Colossians 3:23-24
Whatever work you do, put yourself into it, as those who are serving not merely other people, but the Lord. Remember that as your reward, you will receive the inheritance from the Lord. You are slaving for the Lord, for the Messiah.


Psalm 37:11
But the meek will inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.

Matthew 5:5
How blessed are the meek! for they will inherit the Land!


Hebrews 9:13-17 (Maimonides RP244; Chinuch C60)
For if sprinkling ceremonially unclean persons with the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer restores their outward purity; then how much more the blood of the Messiah, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself to God as a sacrifice without blemish, will purify our conscience from works that lead to death, so that we can serve the living God! It is because of this death that he is mediator of a new covenant [or will]. Because a death has occurred which sets people free from the transgressions committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. For where there is a will, there must necessarily be produced evidence of its maker's death, since a will goes into effect only upon death; it never has force while its maker is still alive.


There are three kinds of inheritance referred to in Scripture; they are (1) financial inheritance (money, personal property and land), (2) royal inheritance (e.g. kingship passing from father to son), and (3) moral inheritance (i.e. non-tangible assets such as character traits and ethical values. In addition, there are two mechanisms that govern inheritance - (1) last wills and testaments, and (2) statutes of intestacy (i.e. rules that govern inheritance in the absence of a last will and testament). All of these date back to the time of Moses and before but, because today we live under secular governments (not the theocracy of ancient Israel), today's laws of inheritance are what govern.

Financial inheritance under Moses and today are the same in that they were and are controlled by statute, albeit statutes that are different. The system of financial inheritance under and prior to Moses was what we call "primogeniture". It is where all the financial assets of a deceased person are inherited by the person's firstborn or eldest son (sometimes firstborn daughters inherited as well), who then become the family's patriarch and is expected to use his inheritance to care for his siblings and their families. Primogeniture still exists in places, but has been largely eliminated in the western world where it has been replaced by laws of intestacy and "last wills and testaments." Wills that are duly made and executed govern (within limits) and, in the absence of a will, a person's financial assets usually go to his spouse and children according to a statutorily defined plan.

Royal inheritance, where it exists in kingdoms today, is similar to how it was at times in the past, in that it normally goes to the firstborn child (sometimes the firstborn son) by law. In that way it is similar to primogeniture in that the firstborn has responsibility to provide for his siblings as kings have responsibility to provide for their subjects. King David was succeeded by his son Solomon in what is sometimes referred to as the Davidic Dynasty, and the kingship passed from father to son) until the Babylonian exile in 586 BCE.

Moral inheritance is different from the other two in that through it, moral, ethical, and religious values are conveyed through God's influence rather than through law, but the result of conveyance is just as real. Within the Jewish community (and some other communities) there exists what is sometimes referred to as a zava'ah or "ethical will", which is a document designed to pass wisdom and ethical and moral values from one generation to the next. The idea of the ethical will is inspired by Genesis 49:1-33, where Jacob prophesies over, and seeks to convey blessings to, his gathered sons.

Classical Commentators

Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch, wrote only one mitzvah each on inheritance. They were on financial inheritance, supported by Numbers 27:8-9 and Deuteronomy 21:17.


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