The Daughters of “Z”

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Can anyone pronounce Zelophehad? That’s why I titled this blog “The Daughters of “Z”! This month contains two of my favorite portions, which are parashat Pinchas and Mattot/Massei. Well, in this portion we meet Zelophehad’s five daughters Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. In Numbers 27:1-7, the story unfolds of five women trying to get an inheritance that wasn’t going to be given to them, because they were women. These daughters of Zelophehad are part of the new generation in the wilderness and their father was a righteous man who hadn’t participated in the rebellion of Korach. Because Zelophehad was not part of the rebellion, he was entitled to receive an inheritance of land. Since Zelophehad had no sons to claim the inheritance the daughters are left without an inheritance.

So many times when we read stories like this, we can feel that God isn’t fair. Why would God not provide for them? How many times have you thought of God in this way? We think that God, many times, isn’t fair! We compare ourselves with others, and ask why doesn’t He bless me like he blesses that one? “How come I’m not healed but, he got healed?” “How come I’ve prayed for my spouse to come to know the Lord for ten years and that one prayed for two months!” “That’s just not fair God!” But, what the daughters of Zelophehad knew about God was written in a Midrash on Psa. 145:9: “God’s love is not like the love of a mortal father; the latter prefers his sons to his daughters, but He that created the world extends His love to all His children. His tender mercies are over all His works”. God has no preference. Each one of us is precious to Him. We can trust our God! We can submit to His will, even when it doesn’t seem right. This is what these daughters did.

I want you to imagine these women, and what their internal struggle was like. The culture that they grew up in was one of submission and obedience. However, they knew that this was an injustice and that they had to do something about it. So, the first thing that they did was to “come near” (Numbers 27:1). In verse 2, it says “They stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the leaders and all the congregation, at the doorway of the tent of meeting…” They came forward in the camp where it was laid out by tribes and where the Tabernacle was in the middle. In the center were all of the authority figures; Moses, Eleazar, the chieftains, and all of them were men. So, these women come forth where only the important men were and then they spoke! They came forward with one voice to Moses, and they didn’t whine, complain or cause division because they felt there was an injustice. They just came boldly forward to Moses with their petition. Submitting to the will of God. Because they knew that their God was a just God!

If we look at v.5 we see that Moses “brought their case before the Lord.” Then we see in v.7 that God answers Moses; “The daughters of Zelophehad are right in their statements. You shall surely give them a hereditary possession among their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer the inheritance of their father to them.” The daughters have corrected a wrong, but, they have done it in a godly, submitted way. No attitude, anger, or bitterness.

Now, the daughter’s problems are not over. If we look at Numb. 36:1, we see that the Manassite tribe which the daughters belong to have a problem. They have come to Moses concerning a problem with the ruling about the daughter’s inheritance. They point out that when the daughters get married, the land that they have inherited will go with them to the tribes of their husbands. If this happens it will lead to a diminishing of their landholding. So, God’s decision is that they must marry within the tribe of their father’s tribe. In v.10, we see what their response was “Just as the Lord had commanded Moses, so the daughters of Zelophehad did”. This is obedience. These women knew the tender mercies of God. They had submitted to the will of God in chap. 27, and they had found Him to be a just God and now here in chap. 36 we see obedience. They obeyed his instructions. No arguing, no buts, just obeying is what they did.

In Joshua 17:6, we see the daughters receive the inheritance that the Lord provided: “the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance among his sons.” The Lord had promised them an inheritance and He was faithful to them, and He will be faithful to us!