The daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 26:33; 27:1-11)

One of my favorite books is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice . The plot centers on the Bennett family, a husband and wife with five daughters whom they are eager to marry off.  They would be eligible matches if there were not an impediment - an entailment that prevented Mr. Bennett’s daughters from inheriting his estate.  Should he die before they were all married, they would be destitute and evicted from their childhood home by the next closest male relative. Being unable to inherit brought into question whether they would have happy and secure futures.

The state of the Bennett daughters reminds me of five biblical sisters, Mahlah, Milcah, Noah, Hoglah and Tirzah – the daughters of Zelophehad.  Zelophehad and his family were descendants of Manasseh, son of Joseph - Israelites leaving the slavery of Egypt for the Promised Land. Zelophehad died during the 40 years in the wilderness leaving no male heir to carry his family name back to the land of Abraham.  At this point daughters did not automatically inherit from their father’s estate. Should a daughter lose her family’s inheritance simply because there is no son to take the father’s place?  These sisters said no and waited for the right time to plead their case to their leader, Moses.

Their timing was pivotal. The census had been completed at the end of 40 years in the wilderness and Moses’ job as Israel’s leader was coming to an end.  The number of God’s people had been confirmed, now it was time to prepare to divide the land among its heirs.  It was time for Zelophehad’s daughters to make their request known to their leader.  They came to the appropriate forum, before the tabernacle where Moses and high priest Eliezer heard cases.  Zelophehad’s daughters ask for his inheritance to be passed on to them to maintain his line in the promised land.  Moses steps back and does not give them an answer from his reasoning but turns to God for clarity.  This was unheard of in Israel – a daughter having the same rights as a son at the death of a father when there no male children.  What would God say?  The Almighty stated that the daughters’ request was just and reasonable. He told Moses to give them the portion of the land that should go to their father.  God is not only clear in His response; but set legal precedent for generations to come, giving details on how to divide property when a man had no sons, brothers or cousins to take his place.  There is a saying in Israel “there are no heir-less men in Israel,” this I believe comes from this issue in Numbers.

 Because Mahlah, Milcah, Noah, Hoglah and Tirzah asked, they entered into “son ship” in terms of inheritance in the house of Israel.  Zelophehad means “first rupture” or first born.  Because of his first-born status, Zelophehad was to receive a triple portion above his other brothers, which was bestowed to his daughters.

The daughters of Zelophehad helped create new law and obtained divine inheritance, but how does that help us today?  These women knew something many of us don’t.  That God is a God of coverings.  He covers us with emotional health.  He covers us with financial provision. He covers us with the blood of Jesus.  We have an inheritance given to us by a living Heavenly Father who loves to pour out gifts on his children.  We don’t have to beg or plead. It doesn’t matter to Him if we are male or female.  Through Jesus Christ, we are “sons” with all rights and privileges. Go boldly to the Throne.

Until next time,