Friday, February 01, 2008

Zelophehad's Daughters

My name is Tirzah, daughter of Zelophehad. All of my life we've been wandering in the desert, traveling from place to place and seeing the older generation slowly die off. On pleasant evenings by the fire, my father would tell me of the miracles the LORD performed for His people - how He sent plagues against the Egyptians who'd enslaved His people, and how He'd led them out from bondage. Papa told of the way the LORD had parted the Red Sea, how He'd fed the Israelites with quail and manna which He still provides) and quenched their thirst by making water flow from a rock! Then he'd tell of the way the Israelites had disobeyed, refusing to enter the promised land because they were afraid of the inhabitants. Papa always got sad at this point, as he'd tell of the people's rebellion, and the subsequent curse that not one of the people who'd seen God's miraculous signs in Egypt would be able to enter the promised land. My father had been a good man, but eventually he too died in this desert.

My family is a wonderful one, but I have no brothers, only four sisters. Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and I have worked hard together, supporting each other through all of the difficult times. It's now been forty years since that awful day of rebellion, and word has it that soon we'll be headed to the promised land! While listening to all the talk about who will inherit what land, we realized that with no sons to carry on our father's name, he could very easily disappear from all history!

With a love for our father and his memory in our hearts, we tremulously approached the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, leaders and whole assembly. Taking a deep breath, we began. "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."

We didn't get an answer right away, for Moses had to bring our case before the LORD. When Moses announced God's decision, we were overjoyed! We were to have property and an inheritance among our relatives! Now we look forward to entering Cannan with new hope. Our father's name will continue, and we'll be provided for.
The above is an imaginative narrative taken out of Numbers 27:1-11. In our continued study of The Women of the Bible, we now come to the daughters of Zelophehad: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. They were women left alone among the Israelites, with no father or brother to take care of them. However, they remained strong and appealed to the LORD, and He provided for them.

So, what can we learn from their story? We can learn the power of a proper appeal. Zelophehad's daughters could have taken on a "poor me" attitude, being left alone with no promise of provision. Instead, however, they went before their leaders with a proper appeal that their father's name not be forgotten and that they receive his inheritance. And what was God's response? "What Zelophehad's daughters are saying is right..." (Numbers 27:7a) The women's request led to God a law to provide for the families of men who had died without a male heir. This law probably led to many other families receiving help and an inheritance because of these women's boldness.

This isn't the last we hear of Zelophehad's daughters. In Numbers 36, we learn the rest of their story. After many other laws and the plans for the tribal property in the promised land was given to the people, the family heads of the clan the women belonged to went to Moses with a question. In short, they were concerned that the inheritance of Zelophehad would disappear from their tribal lands and be joined to the property of whoever the daughters married. Keeping the property of a tribe together was very important, so God had another command concerning Zelophehad's daughters: they could marry anyone they pleased, as long as they married within the tribal clan of their father.

Did the women pout and cry when they got such a command that put limitations on who they could marry? Not at all! As Numbers 36:10-12 says, "So Zelophehad's daughters did as the LORD commanded Moses. Zelophehad's daughters - Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah and Noah - married their cousins on their father's side. They married within the clans of the descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in their father's clan and tribe."

What can we learn from these unique women? Next time you see something that seems unfair, don't lash out and try to assert your rights. Instead, make a proper appeal to the authorities, then abide by whatever decision they give. Respect your authorities and, providing it is right in God's sight, cheerfully do what they require of you.

Read about Zelophehad's daughters in Numbers 27:1-11 and 36:1-12


Rebekah S. said...

Amen, Amen, Amen! What a wonderful Women of Faith post, and what wonderful teachings you drew from these passages of Scripture!

What you taught in the last paragraph shows us the importance of joyful obedience to our parents, and (once we're married), joyful submission to our husbands. This post completely refutes the lies of feminism!

Good for you, Anna, for standing up to the truth, and for pointing us to this story. I'm amazed by the truth you gleaned from this passage of Scripture! You are very talented-this is definitely a gift the Lord has given to you, to use for His glory! :) Keep up the great work. Have you ever thought of compiling all of these Women of Faith series posts into a book and having it published? It would definitely minister to many ladies!

Thank you for this wonderful post, Anna!!

Love in Christ,

Rebekah S. said...

I meant to say standing up *for* the truth. :) sorry for the typo.

Anna Naomi said...

Rebekah: I'm glad you enjoyed this post! I'd put off writing it for quite some time, for there didn't seem that much to glean from it, but as I wrote God showed me things that we could learn from it. My brother has told me I should publish all my Women of the Bible posts once I'm finished, but I'm not sure if I will. Right now I don't feel called to write a book, but we'll see where the Lord leads in later years.

Maria Pauline said...

Your conclusion(to respect authorities even when we disagree) is absolutely correct! Our duty, not only to our parents and future husband, but also to our teachers, pastors, and government officials, is to respect them and submit to their authority. When they are wrong or unjust, we still need to respect them.


Anonymous said...

Great commentary. The scripture references oar incorrect however. Numbers 26 and 27 then Joshua 17 tell of the account of these unique women.