Scripture Focus: Joshua 17:3-4
3 Now Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons but only daughters, whose names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. 4 They went to Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the leaders and said, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our relatives.” So Joshua gave them an inheritance along with the brothers of their father, according to the Lord’s command.
Reflection: Bold Women, Bold Men
By Erin Newton
Women were uncommon recipients of land inheritance in ancient Israel. The daughters of Zelophehad, however, are rewarded for their boldness.
Without a brother, the customary practice would deny them receiving a portion of the land. They took a bold step in an unconventional direction. Their request could have easily been denied due to the practices of patriarchy. They asked and Joshua granted them inheritance just as it was given to their uncles.
Carolyn Pressler states, “Inheritance by women is an exception rather than the rule…Nonetheless, female passivity is not idealized.” They are not chastised for this request nor rebuked for having something to which typically only men have rights.
This confrontation contrasts with another group requesting a change in inheritance. The men of Joseph received land as was their custom. But they were numerous and needed more space.
They asked and Joshua denied their request.
The men were not left without an answer; for Joshua offered other solutions with the resolve that God would help them succeed.
These two stories describe people who were unsatisfied with their situation. Neither group expressed dissatisfaction in ways that were wrong or sinful. They simply had other expectations that benefited their family and community in greater ways. Both made requests outside of the traditional custom.
The common thread in both scenarios is the glorification of the will of God. The women received inheritance “according to the Lord’s command.” The men were encouraged that their efforts would be just like the battles before—empowered by God.
Men and women sought a portion of God’s blessing. Men and women were granted a place within the Promised Land.
For women, this story reveals the importance of being bold. Women are not commanded to settle for the customary practices that place them at a disadvantage simply for being born female. If passivity is not the ideal, boldness can take its place.
For men, this story reveals the importance of being bold as well. It is a story of boldly asking for more when it would benefit their family and community. The answer demands more faith in the sovereignty of God.
One group received a quick and simple “yes” and the other, a complicated “maybe but have faith” answer. This text does not overturn the patriarchal tendencies of the Old Testament. It does, however, reveal the unexpected and uncustomary ways in which God indiscriminately blesses his people.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
I will call upon God, and the Lord will deliver me.
In the evening, in the morning, and at the noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice.
He will bring me safely back… God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me. — Psalm 55.17
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.
Read more about Inheritance of Rachel’s Daughters
Leah and Rachel show us the spectrum of marriage at that time. Rachel represents a fairytale…Leah reveals an ugly reality.
Read more about Trust and Pursue God’s Promises
Fully trusting in God’s promises gives us the hope, strength, and courage to pursue those promises.