I thought we finished with Zelophehad’s daughters earlier in Numbers, so why are they back in Numbers 36? Biblical commentators starved for an example of strong women in the bible like to present Zelophehad’s daughters as precocious young ladies who discover this problem and seek out a solution, but the reality is, their chieftains do all the talking for them, and they are nothing but window dressing. I find it disheartening that earlier in the book, they were allowed to address Moses directly, but now they have to sit quietly while the men do all the talking. Anyway, the chieftains realized that, the land laws of Jubilee being the way they are, if the daughters were to marry someone outside of their tribe, the land they inherited from their father would become the property of the tribe of their husband!
Of course, they have to ask Moses about this, and Moses communicates with God through magic stones and God answers with flames descending on the Ark, because it’s just ridiculous to think the Israelites had personal relationships with God and received private revelation. Well, that’s not quite the same idea as what modern believers think, is it?
This inheritance story is most certainly apocryphal (even more so than the rest of the bible?). It’s much more likely that, at some point in the history of the Israelites, the daughter of a man who had no sons married someone outside of her tribe, and then, after Jubilee, her dedicated land was returned, not to her, but to the tribe of her husband. Since it was a no-no for tribes to take land from one another, the tribe who just lost their land no doubt freaked out! Rather than admit to there being a flaw in God’s perfect plan, the priests retroactively added this story to the bible, and since the previous story about land inheritance involved Zelophehad daughters, they were employed again to spot the flaw preemptively. Only, in this priestly version, the men did everything for them. The result of the fix will be revealed tomorrow, and you can bet it’s going to be just as bad as what you’ve come to expect from the bible!