Skip to main content

Lessons From The Daughters of Zelophehad

I am pastor Nathaniel Stalling Jr. of Burning Bush Temple of Christ, and I have been teaching the word of God for over 30 years.

Daughters of Zelophehad


Courage and Determination

When society is confronted with a situation that is not properly addressed by tradition or the law what do you do?

Ancient Israelite society found itself in an unfamiliar predicament. What did they do? They redressed (remedied or set right) their legal and traditional paradigm.

‘Then the [five] daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, from the tribes of Manasseh [who was] the son of Joseph, approached [with a request]. These are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. They stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders, and all the congregation at the doorway of the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle), saying’, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among those who assembled against the Lord in the company of Korah, but he died for his own sin [as did all those who rebelled at Kadesh], and he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be removed from his family because he had no son? Give to us a possession (land) among our father’s brothers.” ‘So Moses brought their case before the Lord. Then the Lord said to Moses,’ “The request of the daughters of Zelophehad is justified. You shall certainly give them a possession as an inheritance among their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer their father’s inheritance to them. Further, you shall say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and has no son, you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter”. Numbers 27:1-8 AMP

Patriarchal societies preserve their history by remembering the lineage and names of male figures. So Zelophehad is identified in terms of his male ancestors. But the translation in the Maasai Bible (Biblia Sinyati) and the NIV translation are faithful to the original Hebrew and give the daughters of Zelophehad their proper place.

The fact that their names also appear in the census data (26:33) indicates that the purpose for which they are mentioned still serves the interests of a patriarchal society. Other men might face the same problem as Zelophehad and die without male heirs. They needed reassurance as to what would happen to their inheritance.

Daughters present case to Moses and the priest.


The church often finds itself in such a dilemma. There have been and, likely will be, pastors and bishops who are founders of churches and ministries that would like to pass the fruits of their labors on to their heirs. But, for some, they have no ‘legitimate’ heir, at least not one that’s been approved by our Lord.

The five daughters approached the Tent of Meeting and stood before Moses and the elders of the community (27:1d-2). The Hebrew word translated ‘approached’ suggests that the women acted with courage and determination. They may have drawn courage from their solidarity.

They knew that plans were being made for land allocation and that so far, no laws had been laid down that addressed their position as the representatives of a family without male children.

Above all, they were aware of Yahweh’s relationship with Israel and knew that his relationship was with the whole community, both men and women so that their family was entitled to share in God’s gift of new land.

What the daughters of Zelophehad started as a family issue becomes a divine stipulation for the benefit of all and for all generations.

They used their life-transforming experiences to reconstruct the legal status of women as regards land inheritance and to improve the welfare of all.

Sometimes we need to do like the daughters of Zelophehad and step outside the boundaries that were laid long ago. We may need to take another look at the paradigm that brought us here and see if it’s sufficient to take us further.

Is this an inflection point that requires a reconstruction of how we move into the next generation of believers?

Laws and traditions can be a good framework that keeps us bound to a set of principles that affords us a good path forward; that keeps us tethered to what’s good and right. But there should always be room to make necessary adjustments to include everyone.

We need to pray. We need to be courageous and determined.

© 2021 Nathaniel Stalling Jr