Sharon Wilharm Bible Storyteller

Daughters of Zelophehad Impact History

The daughters of Zelophehad had a problem. They also had a solution, but they had to go before Moses, Eleazar the priest, and congregational leaders. What they were proposing was unprecedented. They were asking for women’s property rights.

The five women went together to the doorway of the tabernacle of meeting and presented their case. They focused not on themselves, but on their father.

They explained that their father had died in the wilderness but was not part of any revolt against God. They asked, “Why 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” (Numbers 27:4).

The men listened to what the sisters had to say, then Moses took their petition to God.

God confirmed the women’s request, giving Moses new property inheritance laws which Moses put into practice. These new laws allowed that if a man died with daughters but no sons, then his inheritance would pass to his daughters.

But men came to Moses complaining that they were fine with the daughters inheriting their father’s portion, but what happened if they went on to marry outside their tribe? In that case, their inheritance would go to another tribe and their tribe’s total inheritance would be reduced.

Moses added an amendment to his ruling to clarify that, for the daughters to inherit their father’s property, they must marry within their tribe. If they married into another tribe, they would lose their inheritance. The women agreed, and each went on to marry men in the tribe of Joseph.

Because of five courageous sisters, all of Israel saw God’s care and compassion for women, and a new precedence was set for women’s rights.

Read about the Daughters of Zelophehad in Scripture: Numbers 27:1-11, Numbers 36:1-12, Joshua 17:3

Daughters of Zelophehad advocates for women's rights

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