Saturday, December 3, 2016

Daughters of Zelophehad

Women of Israel's Heroic Age
Daughters of Zelophehad

Daughters of Zelophehad "They Declared Their Rights"

Key Scripture: Numbers 26:33; 27:1-7; 36:1-12; 1 Corinthians 7:15; Joshua. 17:1-6

Their Names Mean: Malah "fat"/"infirmity," Noah "movement,"  Milcah "queen,"  Tirzah "pleasing,"  Hoglah "dancing."

Their Strengths: Together, they were bold. They were obedient and loyal.

Their Sorrow: The five daughters of Zelophehad considered themselves as left destitute, having neither father nor brother to inherit any land.

Their Joy: Their believing expectation that the word of the Lord would be performed in due season.

Pre-Story: The time of this incident occurred during the wilderness journey that was lead by Moses. They were nearing the time of entrance into the promise land. A whole new generation had arisen. They were now anticipating the dividing up of the land. In the midst of this division of the land by lots there came to Moses these five daughters of Zelophehad who had died in the wilderness wanderings and had no male heirs. They are disturbed about their threatened loss of inheritance.

Their Story: According to God’s decree, the promised land is to be apportioned according to the “number of names” in the census recorded in (Numbers 26:5, 56). Since only men were counted in the census, Zelophehad’s daughters would be left without an inheritance. Together, the sister's came forward to appeal this.They argue that their father’s name (lineage) should not be cut off from his clan just because he had no son and that they should be permitted to inherit his land portion.

Moses asked God for direction and God announces the decision to Moses: “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them.” (Numbers 27:5). In other words, God ruled in favor of the daughters.The text then moves beyond the particular case to report God’s further regulation for order of inheritance: When there are no sons, daughters shall have first inheritance rights, followed by other male relatives in a set sequence.

Later on, the male relatives of the Manassite clan, to which Zelophehad belonged recognize what to them appears to be a large loophole in this ruling. Their appeal to Moses is recorded in Numbers 36. The male relatives point out that when the daughters of Zelophehad get married, the land that they have inherited will go with them to the clans of their husbands. As insurance against such movement, the daughters of Zelophehad must marry within the clan of their father’s tribe. The daughters do marry within their clan. Each married a son of an uncle.

When the time came for Joshua to divide up the land into inheritances for each tribe the daughters of Zelophehad again approached Eleazar the high priest, and Joshua and reminded them that the Lord had commanded Moses to give them "An inheritance among our brethren". 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.

Their Place in God's Divine Plan:These daughters show us that the Lord not only takes notice of the affairs of nations, but also of those of individuals and families. Throughout the Bible, God shows special concern for the widow and the orphan.

Their Challenges Along the Way: They dared to challenge a tradition that was entrenched in Israel. There was no law that denied them their inheritance, but custom was against it.

Their Victories: These women stood for righteousness and God himself approved them to have the right to inherit what was truly theirs, trusting in God's grace, and they did it despite discouragement and delay.

Lesson We Can Learn from their Legacy: These five girls names have come down to us because they were women of faith. God calls us to the life of faith. Do not wait for the big and daring things for it is the little things that change the world.

Father: Zelophehad
Great-grandmother: Maacah
Great-great grandmother: Manasseh's "concubine the Aramitess"

Because of the daughters of Zelophedad, Jesus inherits the throne of David through Mary, not through Joseph. The promise that Gabriel gave to Mary in this regard is interesting. Telling her that she would bear a Son, he continued, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever…” Luke 1:32, 33a. He didn’t say a word about the throne to Joseph. These five daughters had no idea at all that, generations later, this concern would directly affect the Messiah.

Post Thoughts: Legal advice, concerning the inheritance rights and obligations of the daughters of Zelophehad, is given twice in the Biblical account. On the first occasion, the topic is about inheritance when there are no male children, while the topic of the second occasion is levirate marriage, and property inheritance remaining within a clan (not the tribe).

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