week 11 day 6: but daughters

the_daughters_of_zelophehadIn many societies daughters are still considered inferior when compared to sons. This political social cultural economic view often hampers the advancement of nations in terms of modern development. Today’s passage is simple: “Now Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons, but daughters; and the names of the daughters of Zelophehad were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. These are the families of Manasseh.”

 What were these daughters (women) famous for? Here is what the Bible recorded them for: They were the first women who spoke out against the injustice of the parts of the Law (legal codes) that favored biological male as heirs to landed inheritance from their father. Moses brought the matters to the Lord and God spoke in their favor. Thus the right for women to inherit possessions from their parent was established as part of the Law.  The girls were young and had no status in the society. But they knew their parents’ history and the Law of Moses. They also knew God’s original intention for establishing the Law. So they took this very courageous step to see Moses and the elders in their society.  The girls evidenced knowledge of the Covenant and ritual requirements, given that they approached the tent of meeting to commune with God through Moses instead of crying out disrespectfully to God, rebelling against God, like the old generation of ancient Israel. Nevertheless, in response, God grants them their request.  (Timeline: 13 century BC)

(they were probably fairly young  because at the time they approached Moses they were unmarried. Women in Old Testament times usually married around 14 or 15 and so it is probable that the oldest daughter was around that age or younger.) 

Later, these young women/girls approached Joshua when dividing the land. Accordingly Joshua gave each daughter two portions of land (making a total of 10 portions) because their father was the first born son and thus entitled to a double portion (Joshua 17: 5-6).

Numbers 27 New King James Version (NKJV)

Inheritance Laws

27 Then came the daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, from the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph; and these were the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.And they stood before Moses, before Eleazar the priest, and before the leaders and all the congregation, by the doorway of the tabernacle of meeting, saying: “Our father died in the wilderness; but he was not in the company of those who gathered together against the Lord, in company with Korah, but he died in his own sin; and he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be removed from among his family because he had no son? Give us a possession among our father’s brothers.”

So Moses brought their case before the Lord.

6 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “The daughters of Zelophehad speak what isright; you shall surely give them a possession of inheritance among their father’s brothers, and cause the inheritance of their father to pass to them. And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall cause his inheritance to pass to his daughter. If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11 And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the relative closest to him in his family, and he shall possess it.’” And it shall be to the children of Israel a statute of judgment, just as the Lord commanded Moses.

Joshua 17:2-4 New King James Version (NKJV)

And there was a lot for the rest of the children of Manasseh according to their families: for the children of Abiezer,[a] the children of Helek, the children of Asriel, the children of Shechem, the children of Hepher, and the children of Shemida; these were the male children of Manasseh the son of Joseph according to their families.

But Zelophehad the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, but only daughters. And these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And they came near before Eleazar the priest, before Joshua the son of Nun, and before the rulers, saying, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.” Therefore, according to the commandment of the Lord, he gave them an inheritance among their father’s brothers.

Footnotes:

  1. Joshua 17:2 Called Jeezer in Numbers 26:30

Numbers 26: 33, Numbers 27: 1-11, Numbers 36: 2-12, Joshua 17:3-6, 1 Chronicles 7:15

Psalms 40:6-10; Numbers 26:1-51; Luke 2:36-52; Proverbs 11:15