The daughters of Zelophehad in the Bible were no ordinary women.
If ever there was a list of bad women in the Bible, they would be on it. And I mean bad in a good way.
These women challenged the beliefs and practices of their day. They teach so many lessons about womanhood, faith, assertiveness and God’s love.
Let’s jump in!
Daughters of Zelophehad Bible verses
The story of these 5 women isn’t one of the most popular in the Scriptures.
So, where are the daughters of Zelophehad in the Bible?
Their story is detailed in Numbers 27:1 – 11.
They were also mentioned in Numbers 36 and Joshua 17:3.
Lessons from the daughters of Zelophehad
The story of Zelophehad’s daughter’s inheritance is ladened with lessons.
Where do I start?
#1 – The daughters of Zelophehad were destitute but not helpless
These five girls lost their father. He died in the desert during the 40 years of wandering.
Without a father and without brothers, the daughters of Zelophehad were in bad shape.
The laws of that time prevented women from being heirs to the property of their father.
Their situation was a gloomy one. Yet, they did not allow the reality of the situation to overwhelm them to the point where they were crippled by helplessness.
They spoke up for themselves. Confidently and respectfully.
They didn’t just sit back and allow life to happen to them.
They didn’t have a “woe is me” attitude.
These women knew that as long as God was in charge of them, there was a better solution to their problems.
So they didn’t take the option of being destitute.
Instead, they went and created a whole other option for themselves.
#2 – The daughters of Zelophehad had fierce courage
Pay close attention to the audience they stood before.
They came forward and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said, Numbers 27:1-2
Think about being at the inauguration and installation of the President.
Anybody who is anybody is present along with the eyes of the whole country.
And imagine that you are asking to be granted a few acres of land somewhere in Washington.
That’s the kind of scene in which these women stood up to request something that had never been granted before.
I can only image the gasps and murmurs that rumbled through the crowd.
What were they doing? Were they crazy?
When your destiny hangs in the balance, courage becomes your new best friend.
Is there a possibility that they were scared?
But they did it scared anyway.
As you step out and move forward in faith to claim what’s yours, do so with courage.
Choose faith over fear.
#3 – The daughters of Zelophehad dared to challenge the norms
By practice, only the males of families were recorded so as to track the patriarchal descendants and ancestry.
Only sons could inherit a father’s possession.
So what did daughters get? A portion of the dowry their husband gifted for them, and of course that is only applicable if the daughter gets married.
They were angry that their father never let them have a portion of the dowry gifted for them.
Dowry sometimes, but very rarely, was in the form of land.
Land being apportioned to women as inheritance was completely unheard of. This has never been done before.
But the daughters of Zelophehad were intent on pushing the boundaries of the norms to ensure they could secure their own future.
You know the saying, “it always seems impossible until it’s done” (Nelson Mandela).
The daughters of Zelophehad knew although the concept of female ownership of land was new, the timing to consider it was perfect.
Which leads me to the next point.
#4 – The daughters of Zelophehad boldness changed laws, lives, and history
You see, laws were being created rapidly to govern this new nation of people who had left Egypt and were journeying to the promised land.
For every new situation that came up, Moses had to take steps to hear from God about what laws to set up.
The boldness that these 5 women showed influenced the development of a new set of laws.
Laws on the books said land should be passed on to a man’s sons. The practice was that if a man didn’t have sons, his property was inherited by his brothers.
The fear was that if the women were allowed to inherit, then when they married the land would belong to the family of her new husband.
In that way, a tribe could easily lose property.
But when they spoke up, God changed this practice and allowed daughters to be able to inherit land.
There is no telling what can happen when you stand up for yourself.
You don’t have to play small.
You don’t have to get trapped by the status quo and norms.
And you certainly don’t have to downplay your womanhood.
Step up to the plate.
Speak up for yourself.
Destinies are waiting for your boldness to shine.
In fact, your destiny is the first that will be released to you.
#5 – The daughters of Zelophehad had bold faith
The Israelites were getting ready to enter the promised land. While they were in the desert, they were making preparations.
This included setting laws and rules about land ownerships.
Keep in mind that all this was happening in the desert. They had not crossed the Jordan river. They hadn’t fought any wars to Conquer any land yet.
But the daughters of Zelophehad approached Moses about what would be their fate.
This was bold faith.
They believed strongly in the promise that God had been repeating over and over for 40 years.
They felt strongly that this promise applied to them personally.
By faith they knew the desert experience wasn’t going to last forever.
They believed that they would be among those going into the Promised Land. And by faith they were seeking to claim their piece of land before they even set eyes or foot on it.
They were claiming their piece of land in anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promise.
They were yet to see it yet they were dividing the land.
These women made the definition of faith come alive
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 NIV
How are you believing God’s promises?
Is your faith passive or active?
Are you setting up yourself to receive your promise?
Are you seeing yourself in the future occupying those things which you are believing God for?
What decisive, practical steps are you taking today that tells God you are getting ready to receive your inheritance.
#6 – The daughters of Zelophehad were assertive in claiming what was promised
The first time we meet these 5 sisters, the Israelites were in the desert, getting ready to conquer the lands God had promised them.
The next time we meet them, they have entered the promised land.
Moses had died and Joshua was now in charge.
The daughters of Zelophehad were not intimidated by the change in leadership. They approached Joshua and, again, spoke up for themselves.
They went to Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the leaders and said, “The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our relatives.” So Joshua gave them an inheritance along with the brothers of their father, according to the LORD’s command. (Joshua 17:4)
The land was theirs. They had believed God for it. They had advocated for themselves for it. And God had given instructions for them to have it.
Don’t just stand on the sidelines when God is blessing others.
Get into position, open your mouth and speak up. God has not given you a spirit of fear.
Do you want a promotion at work? Speak up and claim it.
Do you want to start a business? Find people who can help you and speak up.
Are you wanting to go back to school but someone in your life is standing in your way? Speak up and claim the resources you need.
God’s blessings are abundant. They aren’t running out.
But it’s completely up to you if you want to step up and claim your share or watch it being handed over to someone else.
#7 – God loves and cares for his daughters immeasurably
Another lesson we can learn from the daughters of Zelophehad is about how God demonstrates his love towards women.
When Moses went to enquire of the Lord about the request of the daughters of Zelophehad, he got some direction which didn’t align with the norms that governed the treatment of women at that time.
In those days, the rights of women were few. It would appear that God favored men.
Not so at all.
God’s heart is filled with love for his daughters just as much as for his sons.
What God did for these 5 sisters was so special because there was no precedent for it. It had NEVER been done before.
And know this: God did not do it out of pity for them.
God honored these women and their unwavering faith. God expressed confidence in their ability to manage their own estate and their own lives. God trusted them to be outstanding stewards of the blessing that was rightly theirs.
And so God loves you my sister. You are God’s daughter.
He has your inheritance, your blessing. But you must accept God’s love for you and believe His promise and actively step out in faith so you can claim it.
Don’t allow your blessings to be given away to someone else because your life doesn’t match what people think need to be present before you get what God has promised.
A man doesn’t need to be in your life for God’s word to be fulfilled and completed in your life.
You’re already complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10).
Prayer points on daughters of Zelophehad
So now that we have done exploration of this story, how shall we pray?
- Ask God to give you the courage you need to increase your faith.
- Ask God to help you change your mindset so that despite your situation, you will not feel helpless but you will feel empowered through faith.
- Ask God to give you the right words as you open your mouth to advocate for yourself.
- Ask God for favor in the eyes of those you must approach for help with your destiny
- Ask God to help you understand His deep and unconditional love for you as well as ways in which you can practice walking in that love everyday.
FAQs about the daughters of Zelophehad
There are some common questions about the daughters of Zelophehad that I did not talk about in the rest of this post. Here are the answers to those popular questions.
Did the daughters of Zelophehad marry?
Yes. They did get married.
Who did the daughters of Zelophehad marry?
Zelophehad’s daughters—Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milkah and Noah—married their cousins on their father’s side. (Numbers 36:11)
They were restricted to marrying men from within their tribe so that the land would stay within the tribe.
Read Numbers 36 for the whole context. It’s only 13 verses.
What is the meaning of the name Zelophehad?
Zelophehad means “first born”
Meaning of the names of the daughters of Zelophehad
Mahlah means disease. The name comes from a word which means to be weak or sickly. She was the oldest daughter.
Noah means motion. It comes from a word which means to shake, tremble, shiver, unstable.
Hoglah means partridge (as in the bird).
Milcah means queen.
Tirzah means favorable.
What is the significance of the daughters of Zelophehad
The daughters of Zelophehad are often associated with feminism. I suppose nobody can argue that there is some relevance there.
The Bible talks about the equality of the sexes:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 NIV)
I do not want to get into exactly what this means for roles in the home or careers and other things.
We have to be careful of how we allow the enemy to use these issues to cause tension.
In a larger sense, God does not favor either sex. He loves us all equally. His desire is for unity in a way that will honor him.
Final words on the daughters of Zelophehad
These 5 sisters were quite the force to be reckoned with. I hope you have been encouraged and empowered by their story.
Know that you are loved without measure or condition by God.
Know that if you step out in faith, God will honor your trust in him.
Know that if you speak up for yourself and your rights, God will support you.
Know that if you want to forge a new path that no one else has dared to try, you will be empowered by God.
Know that God wants you to have what belongs to you – the inheritance that was yours from your birth.
Pray over it. Claim it. Speak up for it. Work towards it.
- The story of Rahab in the Bible
- Jael in the Bible
- Lessons from Deborah in the Bible
- Shiphrah and Puah – Lessons from the midwives in Exodus 1