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Zelophehad's Daughters

Zelophehad was a man of the tribe of Manasseh who died during the Wilderness Journey. He had five daughters, but no sons. In order to perpetuate their father's name, by means of the allotted share of the promised land that would have gone to him, and then to his sons, if he had any, the daughters asked that the land be given to them instead. Moses brought their request before The Lord and it was granted, thereby establishing a new inheritance law in Israel for men who died without sons.

The new law was immediately a serious potential conflict with another established law that women were legally entitled to their husband's inheritance, not their father's. When Zelophehad's daughters later married, as a family their father's allotment would also become a part of their husband's territory - a serious problem if they married Israelite men from outside of their own tribe i.e. tribal territories were to remain unmixed. A stipulation was then added that daughters who inherited their father's land could marry anyone that they wanted, provided that it was someone within their own tribe. To do otherwise would mean forfeiture of their ancestral land, not as some sort of penalty to the daughter, but to prevent their husband from claiming property in a tribal area of which he was not a member.

Tribal Lands Israelite women could marry anyone from any Israelite tribe and live in any tribal territory, whereas, although Israelite men could also marry anyone from any Israelite tribe, the men could only possess land in a tribal territory of which they were a member i.e. women were free to live anywhere in Israel while the men were more restricted to their own tribal territory. On the other hand, if women inherited their father's territory, according to the new law, they were then subject to the same territorial restriction that men already had to adhere to. Although some people have interpreted it as some sort of "feminist" issue that was somehow unfair to women, the fact is that women were already more free than men as to where they could live. But when women inherited land the same as men did, they became subject to the same restrictions as men did i.e. to only possess land within their own tribal territory.

Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah

Zelophehad's daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah:

"Then came the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph: and these are the names of his daughters; Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against The Lord in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons. 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."

"And Moses [see also The Education Of Moses] brought their cause before The Lord. And The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father's brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them."

"And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter. And if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren. And if he have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his father's brethren. And if his father have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it: and it shall be unto the children of Israel a statute of judgment, as The Lord [see YHVH, Adonai, Jehovah, LORD] commanded Moses." (Numbers 27:1-11 KJV)

Tribal territories were to remain pure. Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah "married unto their father's brothers' sons."

"And the chief fathers of the families of the children of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of the sons of Joseph, came near, and spake before Moses, and before the princes, the chief fathers of the children of Israel: And they said, The Lord commanded my lord to give the land for an inheritance by lot to the children of Israel: and my lord was commanded by The Lord to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother unto his daughters. And if they be married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the children of Israel, then shall their inheritance be taken from the inheritance of our fathers, and shall be put to the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall it be taken from the lot of our inheritance. And when the jubile of the children of Israel shall be, then shall their inheritance be put unto the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall their inheritance be taken away from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers."

"And Moses commanded the children of Israel according to the word of The Lord, saying, The tribe of the sons of Joseph hath said well. This is the thing which The Lord doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry. So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. And every daughter, that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may enjoy every man the inheritance of his fathers. Neither shall the inheritance remove from one tribe to another tribe; but every one of the tribes of the children of Israel shall keep himself to his own inheritance."

"Even as The Lord commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad: For Mahlah, Tirzah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married unto their father's brothers' sons: And they were married into the families of the sons of Manasseh the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of the family of their father. These are the commandments and the judgments, which The Lord commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho." (Numbers 36:1-13 KJV)

Fact Finder: Who were the 4 women who became the mothers of the 12 tribes of Israel? What was the name of Jacob / Israel's only daughter and which of the 4 mothers was her mother?
See Mothers Of Israel

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