When you think of women’s rights activists, who do you think of? Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem? Do you picture women picketing, holding signs, staging protests?
What about Bible women? Can you imagine women in biblical times taking a stand for women’s rights? What about Old Testament women, early women, back in the days of Moses?
Last week we looked at Moses’s sister Miriam, a prophetess and a leader among the Hebrew women. This week we study the daughters of Zelophehed, five young women who took a stand and set a legal precedent for property rights for women.
Unless you’ve spent a lot of time studying the Old Testament, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tizrah. They’re first introduced in Numbers 26 when Moses is conducting the second census of Israel. The purpose of the census was to determine their military strength as well as to distribute the family land grants in Canaan.
At the time, women held no property rights. When a man died, his inheritance went to his sons. If he had no sons, it went to his brothers. But the five daughters of Zelophehed felt this was unfair. So together as a group, they went to Moses to express their concerns in order to change the laws.
We’re told that they stood before Moses, Eleazar, the priest, and the other leaders of the congregation. It says they stood by the doorway of the tabernacle of meeting, and presented their case.
They explained that their father had died in the wilderness, but, they clarified, he was not part of the revolt against God. He died of his own sins, and he had no sons. Then they asked, “Why should the name of our father be removed from among his family because he had no son?” They close with their request. “Give us a possession among our father’s brothers.”
This petition by five Hebrew sisters is one of the earliest lawsuits on record.
For Further Study
All of The Women of the The Bible by Edith Seen
All the Women of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer
Fearless Daughters of the Bible by J. Lee Grady
Every Woman in the Bible by Sue and Larry Richards
The Woman’s Study Bible
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