Daughters of Zelophehad: Rerun
Num. 27:1 ¶ Then the daughters of Zelophehad came forward. Zelophehad was son of Hepher son of Gilead son of Machir son of Manasseh son of Joseph, a member of the Manassite clans. The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.
Num. 27:2 They stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders, and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and they said,
Num. 27:3 “Our father died in the wilderness; he was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin; and he had no sons.
Num. 27:4 Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.”
Num. 27:5 ¶ Moses brought their case before the LORD.
Num. 27:6 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
Num. 27:7 The daughters of Zelophehad are right in what they are saying; you shall indeed let them possess an inheritance among their father’s brothers and pass the inheritance of their father on to them.
Num. 27:8 You shall also say to the Israelites, “If a man dies, and has no son, then you shall pass his inheritance on to his daughter.
This story is one which fascinates me and I wrote about it exactly three years ago. In reading this text again today, I continued to be fascinated. Therefore this post is a rerun -- a slightly updated version of my post from three years ago.
We are taken back to the Israelites who are traveling in the wilderness, but will soon cross over into the promised land. Before they enter each family is to receive their inheritance and their assignment in the new country will be based on the census which is being taken. In the culture of the day, the clans or families were all appointed according to the male head.
However, here we encounter a family where the males have all died out. Only the women are left. The daughters of Zelophehad must have been amazingly strong women. They were their clan leaders. This word didn't just mean that they happened to end up in charge, but that they actually served in the positions of leadership just as the leaders of the other tribes. These women courageously came and spoke to Moses regarding their concern. They were being left out, simply because they were women. Moses took this concern to God and God told Moses that the women were correct and that this was unfair. From that time on the laws would be changed and if there were no male heirs, the women would receive the inheritance.
"Downton Abby" has been a popular television show for a few years. While the storyline has moved on it began around the theme of the inheritance. Less than 100 years ago in England a daughter could not receive the inheritance of her family. A distant male heir, sometimes someone unknown to the family may the recipient of the family fortune. If this was still true less than 100 years ago, we must recognize how revolutionary God's response was so very long ago.
Often it is cultural norms which keep us from all that God truly has for us. In the culture of Moses' day it would have been unacceptable for the women to be the heirs. Something remarkable happened in this story. One is simply the courage of the women. They didn't wait around for someone else to right the wrong, but rather, they gathered themselves together, and as a team went before Moses, presenting a very logical and well thought-out argument. Interestingly Moses didn't just give his approval. He was probably a little thrown by the unusual request. Therefore he had to go and meet with God and get advice from him. The response of God reveals how counter-cultural the kingdom of God really is. The kingdom of God is counter-cultural for there is a new culture within the kingdom. Here we catch a glimpse of God's intended future for his people where there is equality among the genders which is not provided within the contemporary culture of the day. It is a foreshadowing of Galatians … Gal. 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
Gal. 3:29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
The foreshadowing was that the inheritance would be available to all! Thankfully, that is the day in which we live. The inheritance truly is available to all, no matter who we are or where we fit within the social strata of the day. We may all come before God and claim our inheritance. We must not allow the structures of society to keep us from all that God intends for us. We must step boldly before the throne as his sons and daughters, and claim our inheritance, serving him faithfully in his kingdom.
Thank you for the inheritance you have provided. May we not be shy about what you have given us, but rather, may we walk boldly before you. Amen.