Numbers 27: The Status Quo Gets A Beat-Down

I’ll tell you something. There have been a lot of chapters in Numbers that I have been very excited about.

But I am pretty sure Numbers 27 is my favorite so far. Why? God decides to give a couple of long standing traditions a kick in the pants.

Women’s Rights

Zelophehad was a stand-up guy. He didn’t make a lot of noise when he was alive, but that is ok. He kept himself out of trouble. When people rebelled, he stayed out of it. He knew better.

In spite of this, he had no sons. No heirs. No one to claim his inheritance. No one to carry on his family name.

But he did have five daughters.

Five daughters who thought that a man like their father should be remembered.

Five daughters who had no trouble marching up to the Tent of Meeting, in front of Moses, Eleazar, Israel’s leaders, and the entire assembly and requesting, nay, demanding that they receive their father’s inheritance.

Women of this culture don’t do this.

And do you know what God says? Zelophehad’s daughters are right. They should receive his inheritance. In fact, from now on, any time a man doesn’t have a son, his daughter gets the property.

Can we just stop and consider the implications of that? Feel free to do so in the comments. I feel like I just got a gender equality/elevation and empowerment of women bombed dropped.

And I likes it!

Speaking of Heirs

Moses is on his home stretch. He ain’t entering the promised land. After he climbs up the mountains to look at the promised land, he’s going the way of Aaron.

But he cares about his people. He has been their leader for a good chunk of his life and all of theirs.

If they don’t have another leader who can lead them well they will become like sheep without a shepherd.

So God tells him, in front of everybody, to commission Joshua to lead the people when Moses is gone. Now there will be no question who is in charge.

That’s just good leadership


Does anyone else find it interesting that Numbers 27 challenges two almost universally held traditions of the ancient (and modern, in some places) world?

Men are the property owners.
Authority is hereditary.

Five women make a bold stand and as a result, a law is written that paves the way for women to own their own property.

Leadership of the Israelites is not given to Moses’ son but instead is given to a man “in whom is the spirit.”

God is not as excited about the status quo as we might think.

13 responses

  1. I recently read The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann, and one of the ideas from that book is that Culture (or the Empire, as he call it) wants to maintain the status quo so that it’s reign/power will never end. It teaches us that endings and death are bad. But God does call us to challenge the status quo. Endings are not bad; they are an opportunity for change and for hope. So no matter how much endings may suck, they always carry with them hope.

    • And what I love about God is he is always challenging the power structure. I think that is lost on a lot of us westerners when we read the Bible. As a white American male it is easy for me to miss that part.

      • I love this phrase, that God is always challenging the power structure. I think it’s one that’s missed so often in our debates on issues. God is a God who batters cultural boundaries in ways that are vital. I’ve just discovered and I’m excited to read along!

  2. I don’t think you’re allowed to say women have rights. They only have rights if they submit and we men give them to them… right?

    Just kidding. This is some fascinating stuff, for sure. Thanks so much for highlighting that God is often AGAINST the status quo.

  3. Ben, don’t get too excited. We’re talking about Israel here. We’re not talking about general society or the Church. Those are separate issues…………

    Alright, I tried to say that with a straight face. Actually, what you see in the Bible, with Israel, with Christ and even with Paul and the Church, is that the status of women is elevated higher than society. So, shouldn’t we, in the Church today, continue the movement?

    Now, I am a conservative, Southern Baptist kind of guy. What I just said gets pretty sticky in our churches. And I still work within myself to figure out what I think the implications of what I just wrote above really means. But I can’t completely ignore it either.

    • I think it is a good thing to wrestle with. I keep seeing ways that God pushes culture “forward.” Particularly with regards to women. I was still surprised by this story and the implications that can be made from it. I want to read some commentaries to see what others have said.

  4. This stands out even more (at least to me) when I think of what happened when Israel decided they wanted a heredity male monarch as their system of government, instead of having God choose a leader.

  5. Pingback: slacktivist » Five women who changed God’s rules

  6. Pingback: Imagine for a minute that the book in question has some credibility | An Onymous Lefty

  7. In the past year I feel like God has been saying to me “Just ask me for it. Ask.” So I’ve been trying to ask him, no holds barred, for the things I want. Numbers 27 confirms it yet again. We might be surprised how often God says “yes” to us, if only we take the time and have the gumption to ASK.

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