Numbers 36:1 – Deuteronomy 1:46; Luke 5:29 – 6:11; Psalm 66:1-20; Proverbs 11:24-26
You know that I have daughters. Yes, Sarah, Mary and Esther. Precious daughters. And I’ll just sneak in the fact that I have 9 granddaughters, too, ages 16 to 2. Pretty cute, every one of them. Well, I’d like to say more about my granddaughters but let’s press on.
So for a long time I have loved the story of Zelophehad’s intelligent and resourceful daughters. We read about them, and Sarah blogged about them last week on March 18. Their father, Zelophehad, dies before the nation reaches the Promised Land, leaving no sons to inherit his portion of the land. These five sisters go boldly to Moses with a request: to inherit the land that would have belonged to their father since there are no sons (Num. 27:3-4). And the answer is, yes. Israelite women may inherit from their father if there are no sons.
But in today’s reading a problem arises—the tribe of Manasseh (which is the tribe of Zelophehad’s daughters) is concerned that it may lose the land these five women will inherit. If these daughters choose to marry outside of their tribe, they take their inherited land with them. And that would be bad for the tribe because they would lose some of the land they had been given as a whole tribe.
And so the Lord clarifies the five sisters’ inheritance in this way: they must marry within their own tribe so that the land remains in the territory of Manasseh and doesn’t pass from tribe to tribe (Num. 36:6).
I love this next part. These resourceful, independent women submit to this new ruling! They don’t argue or resist; they accept the limitations imposed on their inheritance. “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… and their inheritance remained in their father’s clan and tribe” (Num. 36:10-12).
You may not love their names, but you gotta love their attitudes! May we each be daughters of Zelophehad—strong enough to ask for what we think should be ours and meek enough to accept the limitations God imposes on our lives.
Then Psalm 66:10-12 (which is speaking of the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt) will be true of us: “For you, O God, tested us; You refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our back. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but You brought us to a place of abundance” (emphasis mine).
- Nell Sunukjian
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