27 Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad … The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 2 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, 3 “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. 4 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.” (Numbers 27:1-5)
In this tiny little story, we see a picture of incredible faith, and an incredibly gracious God. The backstory is that in Israelite culture, land is of vital importance. Many of the passages we find so tedious in Leviticus-Joshua are about the division of the land, the laws for inheritance of the land, the reverting of the land back to its ancestral allotments in the years of Jubilee, and on and on. Even today, the national newspaper in Israel is called Haaretz (The Land).
So, yeah. Land was a big deal. And in this patriarchal culture, the assumption is that land would pass from father to son. So Zelophehad’s daughters were concerned that their family’s allotment would be given to whomever married the daughters. So they came to Moses with the question: Will our father’s name disappear when we get to the Promised Land?
Here is Spurgeon’s insight on this obscure passage:
The children of Israel had not seen the Promised Land, but God had declared that he would plant them in a land that flowed with milk and honey. that land would belong to them and to their descendants by a covenant of salt forever. These women believed in and valued this heritage. They were not like like Esau, who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. They regarded it, though they had never beheld it, as being something exceedingly substantial, and they didn’t want to be left out when the land was divided. They were anxious about an inheritance they had never soon, and in this regard they may testify to us.
There is an inheritance that is far better than the land of Canaan. May we all believe in it and long for it!Charles Spurgeon
What a picture of Hebrews 11:1. Zelophehad’s daughters had the substance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen! God, give me a longing for the inheritance that is stored up for me.
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