RESPONSIBLE ABOUT RIGHTS
Loving Father, help me to make choices and take actions today that please you, that bring you glory, that are a blessing to others.
Read NUMBERS 36
Inheritance of Zelophehad’s Daughters
36 The family heads of the clan of Gilead son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, who were from the clans of the descendants of Joseph, came and spoke before Moses and the leaders, the heads of the Israelite families. 2 They said, “When the Lord commanded my lord to give the land as an inheritance to the Israelites by lot, he ordered you to give the inheritance of our brother Zelophehad to his daughters. 3 Now suppose they marry men from other Israelite tribes; then their inheritance will be taken from our ancestral inheritance and added to that of the tribe they marry into. And so part of the inheritance allotted to us will be taken away. 4 When the Year of Jubilee for the Israelites comes, their inheritance will be added to that of the tribe into which they marry, and their property will be taken from the tribal inheritance of our ancestors.”
5 Then at the Lord’s command Moses gave this order to the Israelites: “What the tribe of the descendants of Joseph is saying is right. 6 This is what the Lord commands for Zelophehad’s daughters: They may marry anyone they please as long as they marry within their father’s tribal clan. 7 No inheritance in Israel is to pass from one tribe to another, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal inheritance of their ancestors. 8 Every daughter who inherits land in any Israelite tribe must marry someone in her father’s tribal clan, so that every Israelite will possess the inheritance of their ancestors. 9 No inheritance may pass from one tribe to another, for each Israelite tribe is to keep the land it inherits.”
10 So Zelophehad’s daughters did as the Lord commanded Moses. 11 Zelophehad’s daughters—Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milkah and Noah—married their cousins on their father’s side. 12 They married within the clans of the descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in their father’s tribe and clan.
13 These are the commands and regulations the Lord gave through Moses to the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage … lend a helping hand.’1 Seek God’s grace to cultivate this attitude.
In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) set out basic rights and freedoms universally applicable to all human beings. Fifty years later, the recognition that ‘the effective enjoyment and implementation of human rights and fundamental freedoms are inextricably linked to the assumption of the duties and responsibilities implicit in those rights’ gave rise to the Declaration of Human Duties and Responsibilities.
In a question relating to land rights, God had upheld the right of Zelophehad’s daughters to inherit (v 2),2 but it didn’t take 50 years to recognize the necessity for the responsible exercise of this right! While ‘they may marry anyone they please’ (v 6), this is constrained by the requirement to ‘marry within their father’s tribal clan’ (v 6). This would safeguard the inheritance of every Israelite, a consideration so important that it is repeated three times (vs 7–9).
Paul echoes this mindset when he reminds the Corinthian church that gifts given to ‘each one’ must be used for the ‘common good.’3 As a consequence of COVID-19, many countries experienced lockdowns which restricted individual freedoms. Such restrictions were necessary to protect whole communities from infection. Given that the inheritance of a whole clan was at risk (vs 3,4), women who enjoyed special land rights were required to be responsible in their exercise of marriage rights. In a narrative marked by repeated acts of disobedience, the women’s obedience blesses the whole community and forms a refreshing conclusion to the book of Numbers.
‘…do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love.’4 How does this shape your attitudes and decisions regarding rights and responsibilities?
Almighty God, thank you for the story of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, that tells me who you are and, from the beginning, what your plans have always been for me. Help me to share that great story with others.
1 Phil 2:3,4, The Message 2 See also Num 27:7 3 1 Cor 12:7 4 Gal 5:13, TNIV
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