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.

Show Notes

For Further Study

Numbers 26:33

Numbers 27:1-11

Numbers 36:1-12

Joshua 17:3

Additional Reading

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

Clark, Henry C. “‘AND ZELOPHEHAD HAD DAUGHTERS.’” American Bar Association Journal, vol. 10, no. 2, 1924, pp. 133–134. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25711523. Accessed 15 May 2020.

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About the Author Sharon Wilharm

Christian women’s speaker, Sharon Wilharm, is a ministry leader, podcast host, and female filmmaker whose stories have impacted audiences around the globe. An accomplished storyteller, Sharon draws the audience in with humor, engages them with stories, then ties everything together to bring to light spiritual truths. Her heart’s desire is to encourage women in their walk with the Lord, showing them how to find God’s will for their life through prayer and scripture. “God is the Master Storyteller,” says Sharon. “I love helping women see how God is always at work behind the scenes laying the foundation for the glorious future He has in store for us.” Sharon is a firm believer in the power of prayer and has many stories to share of God working in miraculous ways in her own life as well as those around her. She’s passionate about teaching women how to pray and loves engaging with women in personal prayer. Wherever she goes, she finds herself surrounded by women in need of prayer, and she considers it an honor to pray with women whether they’re friends, family, or complete strangers. Sharon has enjoyed a lifelong fascination with women of the Bible and loves applying the biblical stories to modern situations. She teaches a Women Through the Bible study at her church, applying the S.O.A.P. method of scripture study. She especially enjoys delving into lesser known women and discovering encouraging truths for women of today. She recently launched a new podcast where she works her way through the Bible sharing the stories of All God’s Women.

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