Forty women: 17. Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah
These five women know where they come from. Their father was Zelophehad, their grandfather was Hepher, their great-grandfather was Gilead, their great-great-grandfather was Makir, their great-great-great-grandfather was Manasseh. And so their great-great-great-great-grandfather was Joseph, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham.
They belong. They are part of the the family, the tribe, the clan and the nation.
But they don’t have a brother. And without a brother, Zelophehad’s name would be forgotten. No one would list him in their family because that line would always go through the male line of ancestors. Even if all five girls had children, none of them would be remembered as Zelophehad’s descendants.
These five women know that their father was a good man. He may have died in the wilderness, but not because he was rebellious. Not because he set himself up against the Lord. He deserves to keep his place in the family. In the history.
And so they go to Moses and make their case: “Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.” (Numbers 27:4).
And then Moses takes the case to God, and God, it turns out, takes the women’s side: “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them.” (Numbers 27:7).
The property and the inheritance will pass to his daughters and his name will not be forgotten. The women are their father’s children, and it is their right.
There’s even a new law given, to establish this right for all women in Israel. Because the women belong too. They belong to the family, the clan, the tribe and the nation. Because Israel’s history is their history. Because their father’s name should not be forgotten.
And neither should theirs.