As happens more often, here too the enumeration of names is interrupted by a short history. Such histories have an important place. In this case, something is told that is present in the hearts during the distribution of the cities. We saw that with Caleb and Achsah. Here we see it with the daughters of Zelophehad.
The daughters of Zelophehad consciously choose for an inheritance “among our brothers” in the land and not in the other half of the tribe that has chosen the wilderness side of the Jordan. Women share as much in the inheritance as men. Their public conduct may be regulated by God in a different way than that of men, but their share in spiritual blessings is not.
Normally only the sons inherit. Daughters who marry share in the inheritance of the man they marry. Zelophehad has only daughters. Zelophehad died in the wilderness and can’t go to Joshua himself. His daughters can do that and they do. Before going through the Jordan, they went to Moses to ask for an inheritance (Num 27:1-111Then the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph, came near; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah and Hoglah and Milcah and Tirzah.2They stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the leaders and all the congregation, at the doorway of the tent of meeting, saying,3“Our father died in the wilderness, yet he was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah; but he died in his own sin, and he had no sons.4Why should the name of our father be withdrawn from among his family because he had no son? Give us a possession among our father’s brothers.”5So Moses brought their case before the LORD.6Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,7“The daughters of Zelophehad are right in [their] statements. You shall surely give them a hereditary possession among their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer the inheritance of their father to them.8Further, you shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter.9If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers.10If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers.11If his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his nearest relative in his own family, and he shall possess it; and it shall be a statutory ordinance to the sons of Israel, just as the LORD commanded Moses.’”). Now they come to Eleazar and Joshua to claim the promised inheritance. In the four times Joshua and Eleazar are mentioned together in this book (verse 44They came near before Eleazar the priest and before Joshua the son of Nun and before the leaders, saying, “The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.” So according to the command of the LORD he gave them an inheritance among their father’s brothers.; Jos 14:11Now these are [the territories] which the sons of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the households of the tribes of the sons of Israel apportioned to them for an inheritance,; 19:5151These are the inheritances which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the households of the tribes of the sons of Israel distributed by lot in Shiloh before the LORD at the doorway of the tent of meeting. So they finished dividing the land.; 21:11Then the heads of households of the Levites approached Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of households of the tribes of the sons of Israel.), Eleazar always comes first.
The daughters show faith. They could have said: ‘What do we need an inheritance for? When we get married, we will get it.’ But they have understood God’s thoughts that He wants to give each family an inheritance. The women show an interest in what God has in mind for their family. There is not only a general interest in the land among them, but they wish for the part of the land which God has specially destined for them. They give God the opportunity, as it were, to fulfil His purpose. They have, so to speak, a twofold faith that argues:
1. God has something for us and we don’t want to miss it.
2. We will not be prevented from asking for it because of poor conditions.
We can apply this to listening to or reading what a brother passes on from Scripture. That is good and important, but that is not yet what God has for us personally. This brother can only pass on what he has taken possession of himself. His service will encourage us to take possession of what the Lord has given us each personally. A sister should therefore read the Word herself and not leave it to her husband or the brothers of the local church.
We should not be satisfied with what others have collected for us. If we desire to receive from God what He has personally in mind as blessing for us, He will give it. Weakness and want are no reason to renounce the part God has personally assigned us.
The faith of these women gives them each an inheritance and the five sons each receive one. This way the tribe of Manasseh gets ten parts.