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Numbers 27:1-11 – Inheritance for the Daughters of Zelophehad


The daughters of Zelophehad, who died in the wilderness, are permitted to gain their father's inheritance.


The normal rule in Israel, as a patriarchal society, was that inheritance was passed from the father to the sons. But here something new is instituted. What if a man who died with the older generation in the wilderness had only daughters and no sons? Who would inherit? Who would carry on the family name? Moses takes this case before God, and a new edict is given: not only in this particular case, but in general, women without brothers will be able to inherit from their father (the ramifications of the case continue in chapter 36). The move from the old generation to the new in the wilderness gave rise not only to new life in the promised land for all, but to new possibilities for women in particular.

Numbers 27:1-11

The Daughters of Zelophehad

27Then the daughters of Zelophehad came forward. Zelophehad was son of Hepher son of Gilead son of Machir son of Manasseh son of Joseph, a member of the Manassite clans. The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 2They stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders, and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and they said, 3‘Our father died in the wilderness; he was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin; and he had no sons. 4Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.’

Moses brought their case before the Lord. 6And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 7The daughters of Zelophehad are right in what they are saying; you shall indeed let them possess an inheritance among their father’s brothers and pass the inheritance of their father on to them. 8You shall also say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies, and has no son, then you shall pass his inheritance on to his daughter. 9If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. 10If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the nearest kinsman of his clan, and he shall possess it. It shall be for the Israelites a statute and ordinance, as the Lord commanded Moses.’

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