How was the Land of Israel divided up among the Children of Israel who arrived after the 40 year trek through the desert?
Two passages in the Torah appear to offer different versions of the method used for dividing the land –
Two pesukim before (Bamidbar 26:53) the Torah states that the land would be divided “among these…according to the number of names.”
Our Gemara quotes three different opinions about how to interpret these pesukim.
1. Rabbi Yoshiya emphasizes the first pasuk and rules that the land was divided according to those who left Egypt. The passage is understood as teaching that the division was not done according to individuals, rather according to the families of each of the tribes. The heads of the families that were to receive a share in the land were determined by the people who left Egypt.
To illustrate, if two brothers were among those who left Egypt, and upon entering the land of Israel one had five sons and the other had a single child, the five sons would divide one portion between them, while the single son would get a whole portion for himself.
2. Rabbi Yonatan sees the second pasuk as the one that is crucial for understanding the method of division, so the determining factor is who entered the land.
To illustrate, if three brothers left Egypt, and upon entering Israel the first brother had four children, the second had three children and the third had two children, the family has nine portions of land (4+3+2). We then must divide the portions amongst the three families so that each father has three portions to give. Thus the four children of the first brother get three-quarters of a portion, the three children of the second brother get a full portion each, and the two children of the third brother get one-and-a-half portions.
3. Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar accepts both pesukim and says that both those who left Egypt and those who entered Israel received a portion. According to this opinion, it would even be possible for someone to receive two portions, for example, if his father left Egypt and he entered the land, he would receive both his father’s full portion, as well as his own.