When discussing morality with Christians, the route seen in this comic tends to mirror my experience. I bring up the bible condoning slavery, and they counter with, “Biblical slavery wasn’t -that- bad!” I bring up sexism, and they counter with, “But God allows daughters to inherit land!” If that’s your idea of impressive, I’m not impressed.
Numbers 27:1-11 tells the story of Zelophehad’s daughters, the granddaughters of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, son of Joseph. Zelophehad it seems had five daughters, Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. Their names have the following meanings:
- Mahlah - Meaning “disease”.
- Noah - Meaning “motion,” and spelled differently in Hebrew from the Ark-related Noah.
- Hoglah - Meaning “partridge”.
- Milcah - Meaning “queen”. Just slightly better than “disease”!
- Tirzah - Meaning “favourable.” Again, contrast that with “disease”.
Anyway, while Zelophehad had five daughters, he had no sons, and he was among the many who died during the Exodus, though not, the daughters are careful to point out, from being murdered by God. The daughters then implore Moses, just because their father didn’t have any sons, don’t they still deserve the land of their father?
Now, the correct answer is, yes, of course. You’re a human being with all the same rights and privileges as anyone else, why would you even think otherwise? But this is the bible, so “correct” has an all-together different meaning. Rather than simply saying “yes,” Moses has to consult God on even this obvious case. God, to his credit, doesn’t murder them on the spot, and instead agrees that they are due their father’s inheritance. He even takes it a step further by creating an entire inheritance order of importance. Inheritance goes to the firstborn son, failing that, the firstborn daughter. If the man had no children at all, then it goes to his brothers. If he had no brothers, you’d assume the land would go to his sisters, but the bible isn’t quite ready for that kind of equality just yet. Instead, the inheritance goes to the uncles on his father’s side (never the mother’s side), and if they don’t exist, the nearest relative gets the land. It doesn’t say, but I’m presuming the nearest relative must be a male.
This is all well and good, and bible-thumpers can take pride in what they believe to be a progressive legal system, but the reality is, this is not the first instance of women being allowed to inherit property. Also, I can’t help but think that this is not the kind of system for which you’d need divine guidance. History is replete with more egalitarian systems that didn’t require a god.