“Then came the daughters of Zelophehad…and they stood before Moses…saying…Give us a possession among the brethren of our father….” Numbers 27:1-4
There always are among God’s people those who are violent; those who take the kingdom of heaven by force. No, they do not try to take it with the edge of the sword. The kingdom of heaven cannot be taken in that way; it is taken by faith in God’s sure promises which speak concerning the inheritance which is for the children.
They desire a place, an inheritance among the saints!
They ever say: “Give us a place, a possession among the brethren of our father. We desire a place in the church.” They would rather be doorkeepers in the house of the Lord, than to stand in the dwelling of wickedness.
Such were the daughters of Zelophehad. These daughters came from a family where there were no sons. Their names are expressly mentioned by the sacred writer: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah; five daughters, fair and wise, with a wisdom which springs from the fear of the LORD. They were directly interested in their father’s name. Even their sinful father they could not curse, but could only bless his name. Yes, Zelophehad had died. He had died for his sin! Yet, he had not died as an insurrectionist in Israel, whose very name and inheritance was gone forever. He had died for sins which were of such a nature that they did not make him forfeit a right in Israel. He belonged to those thousands and thousands of generations in which God’s mercies are shown, and where His anger will not burn forever. He did not belong to those who hated God, and upon whom the wrath of God comes even to the third and fourth generation.
Hence, these daughters claimed the promised mercies of God, and they stood upon the covenant promises of God which cannot fail.
In suing for their inheritance, the daughters made the promised mercies of God the point of their plea. Wonderful daughters these were! They were not interested in the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life, which all will pass away. They were interested in the eternal inheritance of heaven as portrayed in the inheritance in the land. These daughters sought their allotted portion in the tribe of Manasseh. They were daughters of Joseph, and their father’s portion should be in that tribe. Only, now he had died and had no sons; he had no legal heir to take his place as one to whom the inheritance is bequeathed.
It was time to speak out. The second numbering of the people had just taken place. The first numbering had been at Sinai some 39 years before this. Much, so very much, had happened since that time. There were the “natural” deaths which occur in any generation. But there were also those who died as the fulfillment of the Word of God that they should die in the wilderness. The Bible tells us in Numbers 26:64: “But among these there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered…for the LORD has said unto them, ‘They shall surely die in the wilderness…’” . Then, too, there were those who died in special plagues in the wilderness, such as Korah, Dathan and Abiram. But now the time has come for the second numbering of the people, partly to determine the number of eligible fighting men that could be recruited for the army, and chiefly to determine the basis for giving the land to the heads of the houses in Israel. This decision was to be all-determinative for the entire time of Israel’s possession of the land.
The daughters of Zelophehad were women of foresight and action. It was the foresight and the prudence of faith. Their actions set a precedent and principle for all time in division of the land of Israel as this was connected with the law of the year of Jubilee. In this year, all the land was returned to the original owners as their allotted portion, and the principle was to give the land to the nearest relative. The act of these daughters met with the LORD’S approval and blessing. The land would be given, if there were no son, to the daughters as joint-heirs of the inheritance of life. If there were no daughters, the land would be given to the father’s brethren. If there were no brethren, the inheritance would be given to the man’s father’s brethren (uncles and cousins). If all of the latter were absent, the inheritance would be given to the next of kin of the family.
Thus it was unto the children of Israel a statute of judgment!
Thus it is still in the church. Rise up, ye daughters of Zelophehad, and claim your inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Do this in your life in the home and church, in society and the catechism class. Rise up ye daughters fair, when you are asked for a “date.” Be sure that the young man will fit in with the inheritance of your fathers in the church. Will it fit in with your place and confession of faith? Will it fit in with the Reformed faith once delivered to the saints? Yes, you, too, have fathers who have sinned. But they have not hated God. They have an inheritance in Israel. Claim this inheritance and confess in joyful song: “Faith of our fathers, holy faith, we will be true to thee till death…”
It is a holy ordinance and statute in Israel that we confess the truth and reject all heresies repugnant therewith.
Is this the pearl of great price than which there is none more precious to you? He that loveth father, mother, brother or sister more than Me is not worthy of Me, says Jesus. From your fruits you shall be known.
Rise up, ye daughter of Zelophehad!
Look to God who is able to give you an inheritance among all them who are sanctified.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 10 February 1970