Study Guide

Daughters of Zelophehad in Book of Numbers

Daughters of Zelophehad

These ladies only get a couple of quick mentions in the Book of Numbers, but they're a couple of really interesting ones. When Zelophehad dies in the wilderness, his five unmarried daughters are left manless. The girls realize pretty quickly that this means they are gonna wind up in the Promised Land with none of that promised land.

So, they get up the chutzpah to approach Moses and see what can be done:

They said, "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. 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." (27:2-4)

Basically, the girls want justice. It's not their fault their father has died and, without a man to inherit from, they're gonna be shut out of everything that they're rightfully entitled to as God's chosen people. It's a real bummer.

Oddly enough, Moses is convinced and (after consulting with God) decides, "the daughters of Zelophehad are right in what they are saying" (27:7). These ladies can get a share of land from their uncles. Huzzah! Later, they get to marry whomever they want, as long as it's within their father's tribe. Still, they had lots of eligible bachelors to choose from. We're gonna count that one as a win.

These women are important for a couple of reasons. First, their story is a bit of proto-feminism. Women are allowed to inherit property, too. Who'da thunk? Seriously though, if 19th century England had been this progressive, Jane Austen would have had nothing to write about.

The story also shows how laws can change to adapt to new situations. God's commands aren't exactly set in stone (unless you count the ten commandments), and they can be changed and altered as our situations in life alter and change.

Hmmm… what biblical decrees should we toy with next?

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