Rocco DiTrolio
Missionary to Argentina
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The Daughters of Zelophehad: Lessons in Fearlessness! by Ellen DiTrolio

The Daughters of Zelophehad: Lessons in Fearlessness!

Recently in my devotional reading, I came upon a passage of scripture that intrigued me. Numbers 27:1-11. There are few references to the daughters of Zelophehad in the bible and yet they are responsible for a historical change in rules regarding Hebrew inheritance laws when there is no son to carry on the name of a deceased man.

The story goes like this. Zelophehad dies without having a son to continue his name. As a result, his daughters are not able to receive their father’s portion of the Promised Land. (Having had no son, the continuation of his family name depended on his heirs receiving land in his name.)

In a day and age when having a son was paramount, can you imagine what Zelophehad thought each time his wife gave birth to another girl! Here are the names of the girls and the meaning of their names:

Mahlah: Sickness
Noah: Timid
Hoglah: Partridge (or a bird that can not fly)
Milcah: Queen or loved one
Tirzah: Beloved or favored one

It is hard to understand why the first three daughters had such negative names. We need to remember that in ancient times, a name was not necessarily given at the moment of birth. Many named their children when they were toddlers and gave them their names according to the attributes they represented. Perhaps Mahlah was a sickly child and maybe Noah was timid but why would you name a child after a bird that cannot fly? Perhaps after time, and the recognition that Zelophehad would have no sons, Zelophehad was able to appreciate the unlikely gift of another two daughters….and their names show it.

I can’t imagine the first three sisters thinking they could ever present their right to fight for their inheritance before men like Moses, Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly of Israel. We don’t know the actual facts; but one can only assume that the two other sisters managed to convince them that they needed to speak as one and honor their father’s name. They weren’t asking for anything unjust in their eyes, being girls was just not reason enough to lose their inheritance. At a time when men had the final word, a lack of inheritance for these women meant they had no home, no chances for soliciting future marriages, in other words, without this inheritance they had no chance for a future. These brave gathered their courage and in one voice brought their petition for their father’s land before Moses and the leaders of Israel.

It was through the fearless of these five sisters that Moses brought their case before the Lord (Verse 5-7) and not only did they receive their inheritance, history was made for future generations who would petition for their rightful inheritance.

After reading these passages I felt like the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart regarding these five fearless women. These sisters challenge me to remember that no person, no demeaning words that were spoken to me or any act that occurred in my past has the power to hold me back from becoming the person God wants me to be or fulfilling the plan that God has for my life.

You may have woken up this morning feeling like your name is Mahlah, Noah or Hoglah but you need to remember that each of us has a destiny to fulfill and it is not your external value that determines it. You cannot amputate your history from your destiny. God calls common people to take uncommon stands!

Stand firm and take your rightful inheritance in Christ and fulfill that which the Lord has placed before you… are beloved and favored in God’s eyes!

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

P.S. Just as a footnote, Numbers 36:11 mentions that all the sisters find husbands. I love a happy ending!


  • I appreciate not having to do this research myself. Thank you so much!

    Comment by Deborah — July 14, 2011 @ 2:23 am |

  • I am writing a book for teenage girls and was doing research on the daughters of Zelopphehad. I read your devotion and really enjoyed it. It will help me a great deal in preparing my chapter on these amazing women. Thank you for writing such inspiring thoughts.

    Comment by Denia — September 14, 2011 @ 7:45 am |

  • The sermon is so inspiring that i wanna say GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY ABUNDANTLY so that you remain free from any world bondages.

    Comment by Samuel — August 21, 2013 @ 12:10 am |

  • What am amazing revelation that expose us not to look down on whom we are but to look ahead for whom God want us to be. God bless your wisdom

    Comment by Akinbinu Akintunde — October 7, 2015 @ 2:00 am |

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