1 Then came 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; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahiah, Noah, and Hogiah, and Milcah, and Tirzah.
2 And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,
3 Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together again at the Lord in the company of Korah.
4 Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father.
5 And Moses brought their cause before the Lord.
6 ¶ And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
7 The daughters of Zelophehad speak right thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father's brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them.
8 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saving, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter.
9 And if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren.
10 And if he have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his father's brethren.
11 And if his father have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it; and it shall be unto the children of Israel a statute of judgment, as the Lord commanded Moses.
THE respect paid to the daughters of Zelophehad at that early day is worthy the imitation of the rulers in our own times. These daughters were no doubt fine-looking, well-developed women, gifted with the power of eloquence, able to impress their personality and arguments on that immense assemblage of the people. They were allowed to plead their own case in person before the lawgivers, the priests, and the princes, the rulers in State and Church, and all the congregation, at the very door of the tabernacle. They presented their case with such force and clearness that all saw the justice of their claims. Moses was so deeply impressed that he at once retired to his closet to listen to the still small voice of conscience and commune with his Maker. In response, the Lord said to him: "The daughters of Zelophehad speak right, if a man die and leave no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughters." It would have been commendable if
the members of the late Constitutional Convention in New York had, like Moses, asked the guidance of the Lord in deciding the rights of the daughters of the Van Rensselaers, the Stuyvesants, the Livingstons, and the Knickerbockers. Their final action revealed the painful fact that they never thought to take the case to the highest court in the moral universe. The daughters of Zelophehad were fortunate in being all of one mind; none there to plead the fatigue, the publicity, the responsibility of paying taxes and investing property, of keeping a bank account, and having some knowledge of mathematics. The daughters of Zelophehad were happy to accept all the necessary burdens, imposed by the laws of inheritance, while the daughters of the Knickerbockers trembled at the thought of assuming the duties involved in self-government.
As soon as Moses laid the case before the Lord, He not only allowed the justice of the claim, but gave "a statute of judgment," by which the Jewish magistrates should determine all such cases in the division of property in the land of Canaan in all after ages.
When the rights of property were secured to married women in the State of New York in 1848, a certain class were opposed to the measure, and would cross the street to avoid speaking to the sisters who had prayed and petitioned for its success. They did not object, however, in due time to use the property thus secured, and the same type of women will as readily avail them selves of all the advantages of political equality when the right of suffrage is secured.
E. C. S.
The account given in this chapter of the directions as to the division or inheritance of property in the case of Zelophehad, and his daughters shows them to be just, because the daughters are to be treated as well as the sons would be; but the law thereafter given, apparently suggested by this querying of Zelophehad's daughters in reference to their father's possessions is obviously unjust, in that it gives no freedom to the owner of
property as to the disposition of the same after his death, i. e. leaves him without power to will it to any one, and leaves unmentioned the female relatives as heirs at law. Only "brethren" and "kinsman" are the words used, and it is very plain that only males were heirs, except where a man had no son, but had one or more daughters. "The exception proves the rule."
P. A. H.