The Daughters of Zelophehad, Equal Rights, Feminism, And Taking Control

You know how when you love a story, you tell it million times? I feel like that with today's blogpost. I have told it over and over again, and perhaps alluded to it a couple of times on this blog. And will probably allude to it a few million times. However, it's a good story so it gets a pass. It is one of my favorite stories in the Bible, and it can be very easily overlooked. It's not profound on the surface, until you dig deeper to really rethink the context surrounding it, and the times they lived in centuries ago in Biblical era. So what is this story, you say? Come along with me to the book of Numbers.

It was a dark, dreary night, and the moons roared. No. That's the beginning of a bad story. This one is good. Let's try again. The daughters of Zelophehad were five sisters, who were the children of...you guessed right, Zelophehad. I promise I will start the actual story now, for real. The story of these five sisters—whose names you don't necessarily need to know so you don't get overwhelmed—can be found in Numbers 27. We first met them when they petitioned Moses after the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and during the preparation into the new land. Now although it seemed like the Israelites were in limbo, neither in one land or the other, they actually had rules they lived by. There were laws. One of such laws was that only sons could inherit their fathers. Unfortunately for these babes, their father had no son.


Now some other person(s) would take the law for what it was, accept it, and move on. Some other person(s) would say, meh it's the law, what can we do about it anyway since the law is right. Not these babes. They took their case before Moses. You have to understand the amount of boldness it must have taken to do this. Even in the twenty first century, many women don't speak up. Women are less likely to be entitled and certainly less likely to go for what they want, because half the time we worry too much that people would misinterpret our intentions. Many people still believe women should be seen and not heard; that the place of the woman is in the kitchen. And sometimes, when we do speak up, no one listens. Not Moses, but we will come back to him later. Now, if women face so much barriers in the current world we live in, if women are deemed less than men in this century, can you imagine how bad it must have been in that society? Exactly. Whatever it was that fueled them, these girls went to Moses and the entire assembly to make their case. Why should the name of their father disappear from his clan just because he had no son?  See what they did there? The articulated the problem. But they didn't stop there. They knew exactly what they wanted and demanded a solution.

"Give us property along with the rest of our relatives." verse 4B

What I would give to be a fly on the wall in that room. Those men in the assembly would have been gobsmacked. That sort of astounding bravery and boldness from women was not commonplace in that era, and frankly a lot of men still don't know what to do with women like that. It's why people are shocked by Ocasio-Cortez. I mean, how dare she, a first-term congresswoman, be so outspoken? How come she doesn't cower and wait her turn and be generally timid like many women usually are? Ha.

Nevertheless, they persisted. 

Moses, being an amazing leader that he was (one of my favorites in the Bible) took their case to God. He didn't rely on his hubris as a prominent leader; as FRIEND of God; one whom God actually trusted. He didn't admonish them for being terrible children of God who just could not stick with the law. He accepted that ultimately God calls the shot. Your favorite pastors and Instagram Christians could never. They think they have the monopoly on the word of God and every other person can kiss their behind. But today is not the day I go in on your narcissistic, self-conceited, vanity filled Instagram pastors :-) That's for another day. Interestingly, but not at all surprising (because God is very pro-women as the Bible shows us in numerous ways), God sees reason in the argument of these sisters and grants them their wish.

"You MUST give them a grant of land along with their father's relatives. Assign them the property that would have been given to their father."- verse 7

The implication of this, if you must know is that, by asking Moses to give them what he would give the male relatives, God was saying those chicks were just as equal and able as the men.

The wildest part of this story is that because of the sisters, God gave a more general rule to the people of Israel.

"And give the following instructions to the people of Israel: if a man dies and has no son, then give his inheritance to his daughters...this is a legal requirement for the people of Israel, just as the Lord commanded Moses". verses 8, 11

Yeah, the laws were changed because of them. Because they dared to challenge the status-quo. Because they dared to challenge tradition, or y'alls favorite word, "culture". Reminding us again, that cultures do not make us, WE make culture. Reminding us again that a culture that insists on oppressing a segment of the population is not a culture that should remain. To be clear, if these women kept quiet and did nothing, nothing would have changed. But by speaking up, by being so radical, these women made history and broke barriers in women's rights. These women were counter culture. These women are feminist pioneers. They are, to me, my first and foremost feminist icons.

But more than feminism, these women show us the importance of taking action; of taking a hold of our lives. Too often, we just accept what comes to us or what happens to us without pushing back. Too often, we accept defeat too easily, and then go and sulk in a corner. Everybody hates me yen yen. Don't just sit back and let life happen to you. Fight back. Take this literally or metaphorically. Believe me when I say this, because it's been me too. I have lost the will to fight and I just accept whatever comes or is said to me. However, I don't know about you, but I refuse to cower or be subservient. At least not anymore. Push back.  That's my word/phrase for the remainder of this year: PUSH BACK.

Now, a caveat.  These women did not just go to Moses and the rest of the assembly without preparation. No, they armed themselves with knowledge. They knew the law and all the technicalities that came with it. If you must fight a thing, you must first know that thing. You must, excuse my french, know your shit. I don't care how afraid you are. Let that fear propel you. Let that fear push you. I'm now realizing that my fear can often be my greatest strength. Because when I'm afraid of something, that thing better be afraid. I would literally go without sleeping just to prepare for something if that's what it will take.  The result is that the times I have succeeded the most in this life were the times I had been deathly afraid. My point? You can be afraid of what people would say, or failure or whatever, but don't take defeat lying down. Use your agency, because no matter how little, we all have some.

Speak up, fight back, push back, because in this world you and I live in, if you don't, the silence will kill you.

Love, and a little bit of fierceness,

I


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