Zelophehad was a man who had no sons, only daughters; five daughters to be exact, Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. Zelophehad died and left no sons to inherit his land. For the Israelites receiving an inheritance was very important. The land and possessions of a person would be passed down from generation to generation in order for it to stay within the family and to be a part of the Israelites’ territory. In the way that things were done then, since Zelophehad had no sons to inherit his land that would mean that his daughters would be left with nothing. Zelophehad’s daughters set out to change this, but they did it all in the right way. They didn’t demand that they receive their father’s land. They showed respect for the law of the day, those in charge of upholding that law, and those that had the ability to change that law.
They approached the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly, and said, “Our father dies in the desert. …Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.” Numbers 27:1b, 2; 27:4
Zelophehad’s daughters sought to keep his name alive among the people. They knew that if they didn’t have property of their own then his lineage would cease.
Moses, being a righteous man of God, sought the LORD on what to do about their request. He heard from the LORD and responded to them with that direction.
And the LORD said to him, “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and turn their father’s inheritance over to them….This is to be a legal requirement for the Israelites, as the LORD commanded Moses. Numbers 27:6, 7, 11b
The story of Zelophehad’s daughters doesn’t end there. In the very last chapter of Numbers they are brought up again. This time some men bring to question the possibility of what would happen if the daughters marry outside of their tribe. If they did this then it would mean that their inheritance would be added to whatever tribe they would marry into. For the Israelites it was incredibly important that each tribe hold on to their tribal inheritance.
Moses again sought the LORD on what to do. Again he was given instruction to pass on to Zelophehad’s daughters.
“This is what the LORD commands for Zelophehad’s daughters: They may marry anyone they please as long as they marry within the tribal clan of their father.” Numbers 36:6
That is just what Zelophehad’s daughters did; they married within their father’s clan. They were obedient to what the LORD had told them to do.
Zelophehad’s daughters were bold to request a change in the way that an inheritance would be handled. And yet, they were humble in the way that they did it. They followed the proper steps to make their request, and then they followed the guidelines that were set out for them when the request was granted. They were faithful to follow the command of the LORD they He gave directly for them.