Daughters

The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, belonged to the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. They approached the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly, and said, “Our father died in the desert. He was not among Korah’s followers, who banded together against the LORD, but he died for his own sin and left no sons. Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.”

So Moses brought their case before the LORD and the LORD said to him, “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and turn their father’s inheritance over to them.

“Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, turn his inheritance over to his daughter. If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to be a legal requirement for the Israelites, as the LORD commanded Moses.’ ” (Numbers 27:1-11)

God likes women. The five daughters of Zelophehad wanted to protect their father’s name and they wanted to protect themselves. It was important for the Israelites that their names and property were passed down to future generations. In their patriarchal society, if a man had no sons, then some other male relative gained his inheritance. Zelophehad’s daughters thought that was wrong. They were his children, as much as any son could be, so why couldn’t they get the inheritance? God agreed with them. God told Moses that children, regardless of gender, took priority over other relatives. Only if there were no children at all, could some other member of the extended family inherit a dead man’s property.

What mattered to even the least powerful individuals was important to God. He was concerned with such mundane details as the inheritance rights of children. God was concerned with protecting those who might otherwise have been taken advantage of. In a patriarchal society, the rights of women were regularly trampled upon. God saw to it that daughters could not be deprived of what was rightly theirs. Gender does not trump and individual’s humanity. Regardless of what Moses or the other men might have thought, God insisted that women mattered. No one was unimportant to God.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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