This one’s for the girls…
As I was reading and writing last week about Caleb, the “give me this mountain” man, I found in Judges 1 a continuation of his story – and that of his daughter, Acsah. You can read it yourself, but the upshot is that Acsah was given in marriage to Caleb’s younger brother, Othniel, as the prize in a battle against the Canaanites occupying certain areas of the land. Caleb’s land.
One day Acsah gained her husband’s permission to ask her father, Caleb, for an additional gift. He apparently had already given her the land of the Negev as she made mention of it in Judges 1:15. As she approached her father, she asked him for a blessing. Ownership of the dry, parched land of the Negev in southern Judah lacked a key benefit: the blessing of springs of water. Caleb did as she asked and gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.
Water does make a difference between dry and barren or irrigated and fruitful, does it not?
God loves His girls – and the land He gifted – so much so, that He made sure the principle of inheritance was established in none other than the desert.
In Numbers 26, a census was taken of all the sons twenty years old and more who were able to war, of the children of the original Israelites congregated in the land of Moab by the Jordan near Jericho (remember, the walls were coming down!). Through the tongue twister of names, one can read down the list and marvel at the huge census numbers until you reach verse 33. All of a sudden, whereas most of the sons are grouped by family name, five daughters are listed:
“And Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons, but daughters: and the names of the daughters of Zelophehad were Mahlah, and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.” (Numbers 26:33)
The chapter resumes its litany through verse 65’s end, reiterating that only Caleb and Joshua remained alive of all the men of Israel. It’s interesting to note that these five young women are listed by name right in the middle of the chapter. Thirty-two verses precede and thirty-two verses follow. That tells me that God formed woman to hold a pivotal place of balance and awareness.
And these were some pretty aware women! Go grab your Bible and look up Numbers 27. What do you see? The daughters of Zelophehad are once again front and center, by name. The first eight verses of the chapter regale us with how they went before Moses and Eleazar the priest, the princes, and the whole congregation. Shy ones, not so much. There they stated their case:
“Why is our father’s name taken away from the midst of his family because there is no son to him? Give us an inheritance among our father’s brothers.”
What is it with these women?! First, Caleb’s daughter demanding land. Now these five sisters – the only survivors of a dead man. One must be careful with spiritual speculation, but it makes me wonder what these fathers said and modeled to their daughters.
Caleb knew he was going in to take the land. God had promised and that was good enough for him. By the end of chapter 26, Caleb was one of the only two men left standing. Zelophehad, on the other hand, knew his goose was cooked. God had promised that too. Sure enough, he died in the wilderness without feasting on milk and honey. What remained, though, were his five daughters.
I think Acsah must have heard her father tell the “grapes and giants” story many a time around the campfire. It simmered in him and no doubt it blazed like a bonfire at times as he passionately related the promise made by God. She could not help but have caught a glimpse of the significance of this promised land. Given that she was her father’s daughter, she certainly carried some of his spirited genes in her blood. She understood inheritance and intended, as did her father, to be the recipient of God’s word.
As for Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah (do you like how they all end in ‘ah’? even way back then there was a fondness for rhythmic family names!), they too must have heard something from their father. Instead of a story of a promise worth holding on to until it became reality, perhaps they listened to the mourning of a man who knew he would not experience the promise in his lifetime. How much did that knowledge spur on Zelophehad to instruct his daughters in the ways of God and the high stakes of inheritance?
Like Acsah, they made room for their courageous side and boldly requested their inheritance. They understood their father’s name would end with no sons to carry it forward. And with no name carried on, no land to possess. Evidently, they asked the right question for it caused Moses to bring the very issue to the Lord…
Moses brought their case before the Lord. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘The daughters of Zelophehad are justified and speak correctly. You shall surely give them an inheritance among their father’s brethren, and you shall cause their father’s inheritance to pass to them.’ (Numbers 27:5-7)
There you have it, ladies (and men). God Himself ordained that daughters would not be overlooked, set aside or walked on when it came to their birthright. Instead, they would look over, be established, and walk upon the land due their father’s name.
Daughters of God, I bless you with possessing your birthright just as these six women did in days gone by. As it was then, it now still is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom! (Luke 12:32)