Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, from the clans of Manasseh the son of Joseph. The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the chiefs and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, saying, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin. And he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.”
Moses brought their case before the Lord. And the Lord said to Moses, “The daughters of Zelophehad are right. You shall give them possession of an inheritance among their father’s brothers and transfer the inheritance of their father to them. And you shall speak to the people of Israel, saying, ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter. And if he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. And if he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the nearest kinsman of his clan, and he shall possess it. And it shall be for the people of Israel a statute and rule, as the Lord commanded Moses.’ ” Numbers 27:1-11, ESV
Zelophehad dies as part of the wilderness generation. He had not taken part in the rebellion of Korah, thus his family inheritance remained intact. But Zelophehad has no sons to inherit. His daughters, desiring to preserve their family name and property, present their case for inheriting to Moses at the tabernacle. Their case has significant ramifications. Part of the inheritance will be territory in the Promised Land. Clan identity was, in a sense, a claim to the covenant with Israel. Moses goes to the Lord and the Lord endorses the sisters’ claim. A family will not lose its inheritance privileges if there are no sons. An inheritance order is established.
Why does this matter? It reveals that God is more committed to His covenant promises and His covenant people than He is to the strictest interpretation of the law. What a lesson for us to learn! We who consider ourselves conservative Christians tend to look at the commands of Christ and establish law upon law all around it to be sure we never come close to breaking the law. Or we strive to uphold the letter of the law at the cost of its intent and the character of the God who spoke it. In our desire for a black-and-white world, we can become legalistic tyrants.
The commands of Christ are real commands and we are to obey them. What we cannot do is turn into weapons for evil what God has intended for good. We must remember the greatest of commandments and its corollary, “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37-39).
I pray today that love for God and your neighbor will rule your heart as you strive to follow Christ.