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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

מלך המשיח: The 13th Tribe (Part 5: Philosophy)

We can raise a question from our sugya.  Why did the conquest of Yehoshua, and in the future the conquest of the מלך המשיח, initiate a distribution of the land under the sytem of נחלה, but the conquest of every other King does not?

David, in שמואל א פרק כו when he is being forced to flee the land, refers to Eretz Yisroel as 'נחלת ה by saying "כִּי גֵרְשׁוּנִי הַיּוֹם מֵהִסְתַּפֵּחַ בְּנַחֲלַת ה' לֵאמֹר לֵךְ עֲבֹד אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים".  Ultimately, the land is eternally tied to the 'שם ה, and was given as a gift to Bnei Yisroel in fulfillment of an oath Hashem swore to our forefathers who walked that land.  The Tribes of Yisroel have the land to use and sell only until יובל, at which point it returns back to its rightful Owner.  At every יובל, the land is redistributed to the tribes according to the way it was established in the time of Yehoshua through רוח הקודש.  Eretz Yisroel is called 'נחלת ה, because we inherit the land of the 'שם ה.  This idea is encapsulated in the full verse for the Rambam quoted earlier: וְהָאָרֶץ לֹא תִמָּכֵר לִצְמִתֻת כִּי לִי הָאָרֶץ כִּי גֵרִים וְתוֹשָׁבִים אַתֶּם עִמָּדִי.

When every other King conquers a land, it has the status of Eretz Yisroel, the land of Bnei Yisroel.  That is enough to give it the sanctity of Eretz Yisroel.  But it does not cause the new land to be identified as 'נחלת ה.  Since it is not 'נחלת ה, it does not intitiate the sytem of  נחלה to Bnei Yisroel.

However, what emerges from the Rambams in our sugya, is that in the Messianic era when the מלך המשיח conquers land (presumably the remaining 3 of the 10 nations promised to Avraham in Bereishis 15:19) it will have the status of 'נחלת ה.  That new land will be bound to the 'שם ה in the same way that the original land is now.  However, the original division was to only 12 tribes, while the future division will be to 13 tribes.  Is there any further idea we can say about this difference?

We will try to give what limited insight we can, about the significance of 13 tribes, in the next post.


  1. Fact Q- Since we are talking about the same physical piece of land, the 13 part division will have to differ from the 12 part division. If the 12-part division is an achuzas olam (whose essential attribute is "forever") how is it even possible to now have a new, 13 part division without taking away land that once belonged to someone else in the time of Yehoshua - doesn't this undermine the very concept of forever and the return to the "rightful owner", and as you put it in the 3rd post, that it is a chalos shem in the land? (I think part of what I'm grappling with is how and why the nachala arrangement would change from its original setup, which perhaps is what you meant at the end of the post?)

    2nd Q- you mentioned that the right to take 1/13 is reserved to malchus beis David and that is why it couldnt apply to Yehoshua. It seems that this right didnt apply to prior kings from David, only Moshiach and his offspring. Please explain further why this only applies to Moshiach (and onwards) as opposed to earlier kings from David.

    1. 1) its a good question. perhaps one answer is that forever doesnt always mean literally an infinite amount of time. for example in shemos 21:6 the pasuk says וַעֲבָדוֹ לְעֹלָם and rashi there says it means ועבדו לעלם: עד היובל. או אינו אלא לעולם כמשמעו, תלמוד לומר (ויקרא כה י) ואיש אל משפחתו תשובו, מגיד שחמישים שנה קרוים עולם, ולא שיהא עובדו כל חמשים שנה, אלא עובדו עד היובל בין סמוך בין מופלג.

      it could be that forever in our context means until the end of days, the forever of this world but not including the next world (the messianic era). (hopefully, our next and final post will give some sense to this idea)

      a separate point, but to at least make it seem fair, every tribe will get a bigger portion than they originally got as the land of eretz yisroel will be expanded significantly. see rambam hilchos melachim 11:2

      2) in terms of you second question, the process of dividing up the land only occurs twice. once to yehoshua and once in the future. no other davidic king ruled during a comparable time of division of the land. if there had been a division, we are claiming that they would have been zocha to 1/13 of it just like the moshiach.


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