Moses is preparing to share God’s plan for inheritance in the Promised Land. Five brave women step forward to lay claim to a portion for their family.
Israel has always been a patriarchal society. God set it up this way from the beginning. Birthrights were passed down from father to sons. This was probably not a new custom but it was reinforced through the blessing of Abraham to Isaac, from Isaac to Jacob and Esau, and from Jacob to all his sons. But what of the daughters? What did they receive?
To this point the daughters received a dowry upon her marriage. This was paid to her by her father and served as her inheritance. This dowry could come in any form the father saw fit but most lands went to the sons. The groom’s father also paid the bride’s father the “bride price” for his daughter. A portion of this price was customarily passed down to the daughter as part of her dowry too.
But what of the family that had no sons? This is the predicament five daughters face in our story today. Their father died in the wilderness as part of the group whom God forbid to enter into His promise. This family held no future for property in the Promised Land. These women had no father to pass anything onto them. And without bringing some sort of dowry into a marriage, their prospects were slim for suitable husbands.
They brought their plea to Moses. “Why should our family fade into history simply because our father only had daughters?” Meaning, “What is to become of us?” We notice in their asking that they made their request as public as possible. I don’t know if this was to garner support or so that there would be no confusion or miscommunication when the answer came. All the leaders heard their request but it was made before God. Their appeal was to the highest source available.
This was a new question for Moses. He had to consult God for the answer. He consulted God for most answers which is as it should be. This question was addressed to God at His house so one would expect Him to weigh in on the answer.
God agreed with the women! A new law was forged. Women could inherit their father’s lands IF their father had NO sons. God decide to clarify all the possible outcomes. He left nothing uncovered. The new order of inheritance was:
- Daughters in the absence of sons;
- Father’s brother in the absence of children;
- Nearest kinsman in his own clan in the absence of all the above.
I have a quick question here. What of the man’s wife? If he dies before she does, does she receive the inheritance? Does she take it with her into any future marriages? Who does it pass to then? I guess God didn’t give me all the possible scenarios. But then again I’m pretty good at coming up with new possibilities.
One of the major reasons God consented to the daughter’s request was that their father was not part of any of the rebellions that had been taking place throughout the years spent in the wilderness. No, their father wasn’t perfect but neither was he an instigator of trouble. This left no extra judgement hanging over the family name. I wonder if this same standard was to be applied in future instances of daughter’s inheritance rights.
Thank You Father for listening to the hearts of these women. Without Your intervention their lives would have been considered over. They had nothing to offer to entice a man to marry them. You gave them hope!
In the marriage supper of the Lamb we bring nothing. But You call for me anyway. Thank You for being my portion. The daughters in our story had the land to rely on to sustain them. I have You and Your Holy Spirit. Thank You that You have granted me direct access instead of requiring me to follow the rules of inheritance to receive from You. Your gifts are FAR more valuable than anything these women would ever receive. I’m looking forward too to the home You have prepared for me. A place to share with You.