Tucked away in the twenty-seventh chapter of Numbers is a remarkable story about five women who made history. Their story begins with their father who was of the tribe of Manasseh- Zelophehad by name. We know very little about him, except that he was more than likely one of the first generation of Israelites who left Egypt. What we do know is that Zelophehad had no sons but was blessed with five daughters – Mohlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah (v1). At the time of this story, Moses recalls that Israel was on the brink of entering Canaan. Now that their father was deceased, there was no one to speak on their behalf. Consequently, Zelophehad’s daughters would be excluded from any claims to their father’s inheritance, simply because a father’s property/ inheritance was passed from father to son and not father to daughter.
Although Zelophehad’s daughters knew this, they decided to speak up anyway. With the exception of Miriam, no woman had ever done anything like this before. This was totally unprecedented. Driven by a need for fairness and by their faith in God to hear their claims, they approached Moses and challenged the status quo. Standing before Moses and the leaders of Israel, they said, “Our father died in the wilderness…. Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father” (vs 3-4).
I would like to think that Moses saw their heart that day, that he was prepared to grant them their request. First, it was important for Moses to approach the Lord on the matter (v5). The Lord agreed that Zelophehad’s daughters should receive their father’s inheritance (v7).
In today’s climate of seeking fairness for all, I wonder, are we prepared to make a stand for justice and fairness like these brave women? The story concludes with the law being changed that day (v8). Zelophehad’s daughters preserved their father’s memory and inherited a portion of the Promised Land. I thank God for inspiring Moses to record this story of faith. It reminds us all that we have been called to change our world right where we are! I pray that the Lord will help us to live up to this reality, to be confident in our convictions and to speak up when the opportunity arises.