Zelophehad’s Daugthers

The story of Zelophehad’s daughters is a story of family, love for a father, and a lasting legacy.  With only fifty words they had their wish come true, their father’s name did not “disappear” just because he had no sons (Numbers 27:1-11).  Now, this did not happen without conditions (Numbers 36) and a little reminder to Joshua and the elders (Joshua 17:4), twelve more words.  Their story is recorded in three books of the Bible-Numbers, Joshua, and 1 Chronicles.  If you timeline this, Numbers 27 occurs and then the elders of Manasseh in Numbers 36 are worried about land that has not even been won yet but God agrees and sets conditions for inherited land and how it should be passed on if no son was born to a father.  After Numbers 27 + 36 Moses is called to go up the mountain, view the land and die so this may have been the last set of rules he sought God on.

The girls loved their father and he had brought them up to be obedient and independent.  They had a strong sense of justice and knew that just because there was no male descendant that they should not exclude them from their rights in the Promised Land.  So they looked to God and the authorities to do the right thing.

Zelophehad’s daughters were very conscious of politics in the camp and were aware that their father had made some wrong choices. So they start their petition for the inheritance with the fact that he died for his own sins, not Korah’s.  Korah wanted to be a priest (Numbers 16) and lead a rebellion against Moses and Aaron (see Jude 11).  The daughters were very aware that he was not a perfect man when they said he died for his own sins, which would have been grumbling, complaining, and wanting to go back to Egypt.

Names are important in the Bible and it is always interesting to see what the names of people mean.  (I know that sometimes I make too much of the meaning.)  I always assume that the name we see was the one given them at birth but it is always possible that it could have been changed as they grew or that they were nicknames.  With that said here are the meaning for the daughters’ names from my Strong’s/Vines Concordance for the KJV.

  • Mahlah – 4244 – weak one
  • Noah – 5270 – movement (not exactly the same of Noah of the Ark)
  • Hoglah – 2295 – partridge
  • Milcah – 4435 – queen
  • Tirzah – 8656 – delightsomeness

Zelophehad’s name is used 11x in KJV and 9x in the NIV.  In the Strong’s Concordance it is not given a meaning but in the NIV Concordance, it listed as – shadow of dread, terror or protection from dread.  He is also the son of Hepher (pit or shame).  Maybe the Dead Sea Scroll’s shed new light on the root words that made up his name.

As part of Manasseh, the girls received land on the west side of the Jordan not in Gilead that was for the shepherds of the family.

The last mention of them is in 1 Chronicles 7:15. Where again it is pointed out that God had done something special for Zelophehad and his daughters. The land was the inheritance and it was important but his daughters gave him the gift of being remembered because they were brave enough to stand up for their family name and their father.

Tribes of Israel – Manasseh

Manasseh was the first-born child of Joseph who was put as a “second son” by Jacob. Joseph in naming Manasseh and Ephraim demonstrates that he was perfectly happy with his new life and had no intention of going back. (Genesis 41:51+52) He had the power to send a message back to his family but he did not.

I wonder how these two acted around the rest of the family? They were children of the ruler of the country they lived in and because of being Egyptian possibly had more privileges. From Genesis 48:1 I would wonder if Joseph even allowed them to live around his brothers? Joseph may have had them marry within the family but Manasseh definitely owned slaves and even had a foreign concubine.

1 Chronicles 7:14+15 talks about Manasseh’s two notable descendents: Gilead and Zelophehad.  In Numbers 36 Zelophehad dies in the exodus and leaves only daughters, these girls stand up for themselves and their father’s lineage. The daughters go to Moses and plead their case before God; this leads to a new decree to acknowledge women as heirs. It may not sound like much but that was groundbreaking territory when women were viewed much of the time as second-class people or property.   The other descendent was Gilead who was to lend his name to the area of the east bank of the Jordan River that wasTwelveTribesofIsraelebible the inheritance of the tribes of Manasseh, Rueben and Gad. This is a contrast to Zelophehad’s daughters; Gilead comes from an Aramean concubine and a group of people who were not Israelites (Huppites and Shuppites). Just like Bilhah and Zilpah this concubine was a slave that Manasseh used and was so elevated to a slightly better status in the household. You get the feeling that the children were valued but not the mother (Sarah and Hagar).

In 1 Chronicles 5: 18 -26 it gives two contrasting stories; one of faith and trust in God and the other of unfaithfulness to Him. In verse 20 the East Bank tribes cry out to God for help in the middle of a battle and are helped and overcome their enemies. In verse 25 it tells of the unfaithfulness that gets them taken away by Tiglath-Pileser.habor_river

Actually, Manasseh’s descendents were on par with the other tribes; they did their part in taking the Promise Land and showed up at all the right times and were active during the life time of Saul and David. Lo Debar is in the allotment of land given to Manasseh and it was this area that David went to when he ran from Absalom.

Map from http://www.biblestudytools.com/resources/maps/twelve-tribes-of-israel-map.html and eBibleTeacher.com.

http://bibleatlas.org/full/habor_river.htm  large map,