“Then came the daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, from the families of Manasseh son of Joseph. The names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. They stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the leaders, and all the congregation at the door of the Tent of Meeting….”
Numbers 27: 1, 2
“Five Girls on a Mission”
“God lends a hand to honest boldness.”
What does it mean to me to act “boldly?”
Do I think “boldness” in a woman is a positive or negative attribute?
“It is wonderful what strength of purpose and boldness and energy of will are roused by the assurance that we are doing our duty.”
“Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful.”
I’m a little disappointed, for we are beginning our last few days studying the book of Numbers. I don’t know about you but I could never have imagined we would study this book for over a month, but we have! And there’s a lot in Numbers we skipped over. As we have found, this Old Testament book is crammed with heavenly advice for earthly living – instructions given by our Heavenly Father.
For the next few days we will study Numbers 27 and 36. Each day we will learn a specific lesson from the lives of the 5 daughters of Zelophehad, a descendant of one of Joseph’s sons, Manasseh.
Many years ago, the French essayist Voltaire penned these words: “Stand upright, speak thy thoughts, declare the truth thou hast, that all may share; be bold, proclaim it everywhere: They only live who dare.”
You would think Voltaire had read about the 5 girls whose lives will be the basis of our study.
The Bible, though leaving many women unnamed, specifically gives us the names of each of these girls: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. And their story is mentioned in connection with the laws of inheritance.
Our story begins when the girls’ father died. Zelophehad’s daughters believed that his inheritance should pass down to them. So they came before what we might call a jury composed of Moses, Eleazar the priest and the princes at the door of the tabernacle.
Let’s get this straight. When the counting of Israel took place, women and children were not included. The number counted only men because they were noted as heads of families. While we have found that women played more than a prominent role in family life, “the voice” of the family appears to be the males. And certainly when it came to an inheritance, the men always figured first. This practice continued down through history and we see it happening in historical settings around the world as male offspring became the inheritors of family wealth and property.
This is why it is so unique to have five girls come forward with their case before the leaders of Israel. But what’s even more important is the way these five women presented themselves and their request.
This is how they laid out their desire: “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among those who assembled together against the Lord in the company of Korah, but 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 among our father’s brethren” (Numbers 27: 3,4, Amplified). These five daughters certainly took the words of Arthur Koestler to heart and put them into action: “If the Creator had a purpose in equipping us with a neck, he surely meant us to stick it out.” This is exactly what Zelophehad’s daughters did before the entire congregation. They came with boldness, believing in the truth of their cause. Brave and courageous women standing up and being accounted for.
Thankfully, daughters of God, bold women of character throughout Scripture have paved the way for you and me. Deborah, Esther, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Lydia, Priscilla and a host of other Biblical women have carried the torch.
What’s more, in our recent history, there are bold women like Susan B. Anthony who in the United States fought to give women the right to vote. As this bold woman so aptly said, “Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation.”
There’s another bold woman I deeply admire, and this is Susanna Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley. Her husband was away from the family a great deal of time and even ended up in jail for financial misdealings. Yet, this Godly mother purposed that her children would grow up to be warriors in the cause of God. As Susanna put it: “I am a woman, but I am also the mistress of a large family; I am not a man nor a minister, yet as a mother, I felt I ought to do more than I had yet done. I resolved to begin with my own children.” This courageous woman of God saw her commitment pay off in the lives of all her children.
And there’s one more bold woman whose simple message changed our country and changed race-relations around the world to this very day. Her name is Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a city bus. Rosa described her experience this way. “I knew someone had to take the first step and I made up my mind not to move.” Years later, as an elderly woman looking back over her life, Parks reflected, “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
The first lesson we can learn from the daughters of Zelophehad is a lesson on “boldness.” This is not a rude, petulant spirit that demands its own way. This isn’t behavior that is foot stomping and screaming. Nor is this trembling, weak-kneed behavior that cringes when it faces risk.
Heavenly boldness is moving forward, even in the face of danger. It is daring, brave and courageous. Boldness is goodness and virtue in vigorous action wherever and whenever God calls us.
“When we feel us too bold, remember our own feebleness. When we feel us too faint, remember Christ’s strength.”
I Am a Woman
“I am a woman
born of God
I am a woman
born of love
I am caring and competent
vulnerable and powerful
physically, emotionally, and spiritually
I am a woman
reaching out to others
making a difference in myself
and the world
I am empowering myself
to empower others
I am struggling to accept my anger
and use it to gain strength, confidence,
courage, and intimacy with others
I am a woman
who sees the interconnectedness of all human beings
who values the unique gifts of all
I am a woman who leads and follows
who accepts responsibility for myself
and the choices I make
Yes, I am a woman
who sees each day as a new beginning
a chance to grow in self, love, and service
I am a woman
born of God
I am a woman
born of love
and I can be
all that I am
Ms. Katherine Tyler Scott
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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