By Joseph Shulam – from home
This week the synagogues around the world read from Numbers 25:10 – 30:1. This is a very dramatic reading. The two stories that make this portion of the Torah are the deed of Pinchas who took the law into his own hands, and the story of the daughters of Zelophehad (27:1-11). I shall focus on the aspect which has received less attention: comparing Torah laws on the right of daughters to inherit with the practice of the ancient nations around us.
The daughters of Zelophehad came to Moses with a story and a request: “Our father died in the wilderness…for his own sin” (Num. 27:3). Even though he died for his sin, his daughters apparently honored his memory. “And he has left no sons” (Num. 27:3) — since he only left daughters, and daughters could not inherit or receive a holding in the land according to the Law of Moses, they also could not continue the name of their father’s family for the future generations. These seven daughters of Zelophehad argued: “Let not our father’s name be lost to his clan just because he had no son! Give us a holding among our father’s kinsmen!” (Num. 27:4). It is important to stay with the text and understand that the daughters of Zelophehad requested to inherit their father’s land not so that they could be landowners, but for the perpetuation of the name of their father and his honor.
In my opinion, this is the first act of Women’s Rights / Women’s Liberation. The Torah recognizes only the male children as inheritors of their father’s property. There are good reasons for this ancient rule. Especially because the Land of Canaan was divided to each tribe of Israel and within the tribes to each family. So, only if the sons, who are those who hold the name of the family, inherit there is no danger that the property will move to another tribe when the daughters marry men from the other tribes.
In the nations around the land of Israel if there were no sons to inherit from the father, a daughter could inherit all her father’s property. Archaeologists have found documents from a place called Alalakh, (Stratum VII, 17th cent. B.C.E.), indicating that daughters had the right to inherit just as sons. There is evidence that this practice continued up to the 15th century B.C.E. This practice continued later, as well, as is documented in sources from Stratum IV (15th cent. B.C.E.). In Ugarit (13-14th cent. B.C.E.) the laws are not as clear on this issue of daughters inheriting in the presence of a male sibling. However, it is clear that they could inherit their father in the absence of a male brother. In Emar (13th cent. B.C.E.) when specified in a testament of the father, daughters could inherit the same as sons. In a few cases the father could specify in his testament that the daughters could inherit and give his daughters the status of a “son” that would give the daughters the full rights to do all the ancestral rites. In Egypt, in the time of the Old Kingdom (2675-1980 B.C.E.), daughters inherited the property of their dead father, but their brothers inherited a larger portion. This practice in Egypt continued also into the New Kingdom that means all the way to the time of Moses and the children of Israel in Egypt.
The finding from the ancient Near East shed an interesting light on the issue among the Israelites. Moses was raised as an Egyptian Prince in the house of Pharaoh. He probably was well versed in the Egyptian laws. Now after the giving of God’s law in Sinai – there inheritance was given to the sons and the elder son received half of the inheritance and the rest of the sons shared the rest. Suddenly, a problem arises, there are daughters who have no male brother and they want to inherit their father’s land. What are the options of Moses:
- He could say to these women, “The Law is the Law” there is no way to change the law. Not everyone who is unhappy with the Law can come and demand to change the Law and make it to his private liking.
- He could say, I see your point, all the nations around us, allow the daughters to inherit the father if there are no male children. Why should be different than all our neighbors?Let these girls inherit.Equality between man and woman from noble families is a well-established practice in our world.Let us be like everybody else around us.
Moses takes a different rout. He does not feel that he has the right to change the Law or the custom of the people of Israel on his own. He has a higher authority to ask a solution to this problem. He considered the problem and didn’t dismiss it.
Num. 27:5-11, “So Moses brought their case before the LORD. 6 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 7 “The daughters of Zelophehad speak what is right; you shall surely give them a possession of inheritance among their father’s brothers, and cause the inheritance of their father to pass to them. 8 And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: “If a man dies and has no son, then you shall cause his inheritance to pass to his daughter. 9 If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11 And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the relative closest to him in his family, and he shall possess it.’” And it shall be to the children of Israel a statute of judgment, just as the LORD commanded Moses.”
Moses presented the problem to God and God understood the problem and actually changes the Law not only for this specific case, but also for the future. God says, “If a man dies and has no son, then you shall cause his inheritance to pass to his daughter.”
Dear brothers and sisters, I can’t express properly how happy this story makes me. I am a witness of a major breakdown of church hypocrisy. Churches who have been waving the flag of Restoration, and Bible only is our authority, and we want to be like the New Testament Church, have ignored the clear instruction written in the New Testament on many issues, but especially on the issue of women and their role in the life and practice of the church. I have wondered how intelligent men can be so un-intelligent when it comes to the Bible. The New Testament gives women a spectrum of possibilities to establish their equality. Let me just list a few from the very texts that promote equality and privileges for women:
1Cor. 11:5, “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.”
- It is clear in this text that women can pray and prophesy in public as long as they have their hair covered. Churches should have been teaching this and not forbidding women from praying in public.
- For the churches to deny women from praying in public – they have sinned against women and against the church itself.
Rom. 16:1-2, “I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, 2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.”
- In this text from Paul’s letter to the Romans we see that in the church of Rome there were female deacons.The English text reads that Phoebe was a servant.The Greek word for “servant is daikon.”
- Just as the case of women praying in public, in this case women were serving in every church, but they were not recognized that their service was titled the same as the men, Deaconess.
Phil. 4:3. “And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.”
- In this text Paul calls women who worked (labored) with him in the gospel and fellow workers.I wonder what these women did together with Paul in order to be called fellow workers and laborers in the Gospel.
Dear brothers and sisters if we are still committed to the restoration of the New Testament Church – let us not stop with the great achievements of the 19thCentury men of God who understood that the only way to be sure that we are walking in God’s path and getting out of the Roman Catholic stronghold is to return to the Word of God in the historical context and be truly committed to biblical authority for our lives and churches.
There are many more examples and statements, but this prayer list is not the place for enlarging on this topic. For conclusion, I must say that Christians state Paul’s statement regarding the Jew – Gentile challenge, but they forget that the next words in Paul’s statement in Galatians is: Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
This morning there were three Israeli Arabs from the town of Um-El-Phachem – near Tel-Megiddo who came to Jerusalem and with guns shot three Israeli policemen. This happened right in the entrance of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This is really a topic for prayer. Because it could easily escalate to heights that are just unimaginably complicated and could spread to fields far and wide. Please pray for Israel to have divine wisdom and for the Arab and Muslim authorities to tone down their hate language and stop inspiring Muslims everywhere to use terrorism, murder, and hate, as tools. I pray that the Lord will force a peace on the Middle East by wise and Godly persons who are realizing that for both Israel and the Arab neighbor’s peace is the best and really the only option.
Pray for all the issues of corruption in our governments. This is true for Israel as it is in the USA and Europe and in fact in Asia, Africa and Central and South America, all the way to countries like Australia and New Zealand. We must pray for our governments it is a command of God in the letter to the Romans chapter 13.
This morning there were three Israeli policemen wounded near the Lion’s gate of the old city of Jerusalem. They were shot by three Israeli Arabs/Muslims who came from the city of Um-El-Fachem near the ancient city of Megiddo with weapons and shot the policemen and ran into the temple mount that was nearby. They played dead and when the Israeli police came near them they jumped and continued shooting. In the end, they were neutralized. This event needs serious prayer because it is an event that can light a fire in the whole Middle East that could be bad for Israel and for the Arab who live in Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza. Please lift up hands and plead for Israel and for the Muslims and Arabs who are among us.
Pray for Netivyah and the young leadership. They are doing such a wonderful work and deserve every praise and appreciation on our part, but prayer on your part for Netivyah and for all the different ministries that Netivyah and the young leaders are doing for the Kingdom of God and for the city of Jerusalem.
Please keep praying for me and my family. Especially for Marcia’s health, and Danah, Barry, Beth, Joey, and Noaam. Marcia is with her family in East Tennessee and of course she needs God’s constant care for her. Barry is over his problems with the stomach and the surgery but he still has some issues with the rate of his heart beats.
Nancy Hook our dear sister and worker in Netivyah is actually going to have a very major surgery this next weeks. It is a very complicated surgery and she definitely needs everyone to knock on Heaven’s door and ask the LORD to guard and protect and lead the doctors to do the right thing and have a successful surgery and a speedy recovery. We are all praying and interceding for Nancy and Don and the family asking the heavenly powers to restore Nancy to her health quickly. Please join us in this special prayer for our dear sister Nancy Hook. Please don’t forget to pray for Aaron Nancy and Don’s eldest son who is dealing with brain cancer already for several years.
Please keep praying for Salme our dear sister, pray also for Keijo her husband who is one of the pillars of the Lord’s Body in Finland.
Don’t forget to pray for Miriam Sh., who is still in the hospital suffering from cancer that is not operable right now. Pray for a miracle for Miriam Sh., to be healed and stand as a witness of God’s mercy and grace.
Please don’t forget to pray specially pray for Ynon –the baby and his family. The family is now visiting relatives in the USA and keep them in your prayers for travel mercies and some good time of refreshment.
In Finland, we have these dear souls who need God’s healing and strength: Anne-Mirjami, Anna-Majia, Satu-Maria and her daughters, Tim Tucker, Erki and Sirpa, and Kari A.
Our own dear Finnish sisters in the Roeh Israel Congregation in Jerusalem, Leah K., Ahuva B., Ilana H. Other members of our congregation who need God’s healing and grace: David S., Sarit, Miriam, Hannah, Greg, Yuri M. Please don’t forget Daniel P., who is also in the hospital for rehabilitation after a serious motorcycle accident.
Pray for brothers and sisters in the USA that need your prayers for healing: Emmet who is now in a more serious health situation, Bobby, Ruby is now especially in need of healing and encouragement from the Lord, John M. Aaron H., John M., Liz Johnson.
In Holland, we ask for a special prayer for Tineke who is fighting cancer and needs our sincere and intense prayer for healing.
Brothers and sisters in Brazil that need healing: Paulo, Naomi, Clara, Evelyn and Marcelo’s father and especially his mother. I ask for a special prayer for our sister congregation in Curitiba who is also in need of healing among the leaders and inspiration for the leaders to continue leading with hands of grace, patience, and humility to keep things going peacefully and growing.
In Japan, we have the following brothers and sisters that need your prayers for healing: Pra. Curita, Toru, Tomoko San, Sadako San, Takeo Sensei, and Daisuke Sensei, and Sister Yumi’s husband.
The list of brothers and sisters who need strength and blessing in their homes and in their business, is also important to pray for: The Goh family, and especially Raymond are doing much better now and Raymond especially need divine wisdom and help from heaven to do what the Lord has given him to do for his family for his company and above all for the Kingdom of God.
Pray for Sister Christy, Sister Laurel, and for Brother Michael Kenzevic, and Daniel L., all need success and prosperity in their life and work. Pray for a dear brother in Finland by the name of David. Pray that the Lord will provide for David H., an excellent job that will honor his gifting and his family.
Pray for Roger W., and his family. They are traveling and need God’s protection and blessing.
Pray for our travels: Marcia is traveling with her brother tomorrow to East Tennessee to visit her father and mother, and brothers’ family.
Please pray for Netivyah in the USA. Pray for Barry and for Beth who are serving in Netivyah USA.
There is a comment that I would like to make to encourage all those in the USA who need tax deductions for your contributions to make your contributions on the web page of www. Netivyah.org. Please chose the Netivyah USA button for PayPal and give your names and your addresses so that in the end of the year you will receive all the necessary paper work to process your tax deductions.
God bless you all and bless all that you do, especially what you do for the Kingdom of God and specifically for Netivyah, and Israel.
In the end of July, the Lord willing, I shall be traveling again to the Far East. The main event will be in Taipei, Taiwan, but before Taipei, I will be in Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nagoya and Tokyo, Japan. From Japan to Hong Kong to teach in the 611 Church, and only after that Daniel S., will join me in Taipei for a youth camp and the Asia Messianic Forum 2017. All this travel really needs God’s blessings and protection over Daniel and me, and over our health, and luggage, and safe return home in the end of August.
There are no words that can express the wonderful feeling of being a part of the body of the Messiah and have so many wonderful brothers and sisters around the world who love God and love Yeshua, and love us enough to support Netivyah in prayer and with their finances. May the Good LORD bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you and give you His peace.