A Lesson in Innovation: The Daughters of Zelophehad


You need to know about the 5 amazing daughters of Zelophehad.

Found nestled in the 27th chapter in verses 1-11 of Numbers are 5 women who asked a question of the law and law givers that pointed to a different grace filled reality.  The thing is though, it was a risky.  (To read the passage, click here)

Zelophehad, the father of 5 daughters died in the desert just before the Israelites were to enter the promised land.  He had no sons.  Therefore he had no male in the family to inherit his property or place within the promised land.  Which according to the laws of that time meant that the daughters Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah, and Tirzah would be homeless.

No male inheritance, no promised land.  This was devastating as life in the desert was given meaning by this inheritance into this promise of God.

Staring despair in the face, these women dared to put on a spirit of courage and walk to the tent of meeting where Moses, the chief priest Eleazer and the whole assembly, which was a ton of people who were no doubt wondering what was up with these 5 women.  This act in and of itself was a risk.  Then they posed the question:

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

Wait, What?  This question embraced the opportunity for a different, grace filled reality.  These 5 women were asking for Moses and God to change things up a bit.  They are petitioning for a place in God’s promised land.

So, Moses listens.  Moses prays.  The Lord told Moses that the 5 daughters were right. 

The 5 daughters of Zelophehad were in a desperate situation.  It is a story saturated with risk.  The 5 daughters would be risking far more had they fallen back into the social norms of the day rather than pursue the potential of a different lived reality wherein they would have the opportunity to gain space in the promised land.  The promised land was the fulfillment of hope.  Certainly in our world, in our places and spaces where the body of Christ is present there are yet to be realized hopes held hostage by the various incompetency’s of our institutions and structures.  Sometimes our structures fail us.  We need to pay attention to this.

Embrace the questions that point to a different reality.  Pay attention to those whom our institutions and structures seem to neglect.  Embrace the risk that takes us to new horizons of hope. Innovation and courage is what takes us there.   

Step out in faith.  Pursue shalom.  Easy to write.  Hard to do.  Yet, may we take this road together.

What are the structures in place that prevent the tangible love of God to be incarnate (present) in your particular time and place? 


  1. Pingback: Who are the daughters of Zelophehad? « gareth brandt
    • len1919 · September 3, 2012

      Good evidence that they were actually Icelandic 😉

  2. Jordan · September 8, 2012

    Awesome find. Sorry I’m late to the party here… I love these small stories which reveal the character of God. God, even in Numbers, was more concerned about the fate of five women than he was about how things are ‘supposed’ to be done.

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