You are here

Share Share Share Share Share Share Share

Daughters of Zelophehad

Leadership and Authority

All early biblical leaders of the Jewish people were elected by God. The matriarchs and patriarchs, priests, prophets, kings, judges and warriors were chosen by divine plan to lead the nation at different points in its history. The [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:424]Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] offers us glimpses into the relationships between Sarah and Abraham, Rebecca and Isaac, Rachel, Leah and Jacob, based on the principle that ma’aseh avot siman le-banim (the deeds of the ancestors serve as a model for the descendents). Beyond the biblical text, the influence of matriarchal faith and insight is conveyed in the midrashic literature which expands the role of wife, helper and mother to include prophetess, teacher and visionary. Yet it is clear from the biblical narrative that females did not serve in the broader leadership roles filled by males.

Daughters of Zelophehad: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis rain many praises on the daughters of Zelophehad: they are wise, exegetes and and virtuous (BT Bava Batra 119b); they are like the daughters of kings, fine and worthy (Sifrei Zuta 15:32). The [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:357]midrash[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] declares that all five daughters possessed all these admirable qualities: none was better than the others, and all were equal (Sifrei on Numbers, para. 133).

Daughters of Zelophehad: Bible

The story of the five daughters of Zelophehad provides legitimation of a limited right of Israelite women to inherit land. It also places specific marriage restrictions upon any women who inherit under this right. The story celebrates women’s boldness and at the same time offers comfort for men who have the misfortune (from the Bible’s androcentric point of view) to have no sons.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Daughters of Zelophehad." (Viewed on September 16, 2014) <http://jwa.org/taxonomy/term/10880>.

Donate

Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Sign Up for JWA eNews

 

Discover Education Programs

Join our growing community of educators.

view programs