The Daughters of Z
PRAYER: Jesus, I’m so looking forward to learning new things in Your Word. You say in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This is what I want. I want Your Word to go into my soul and spirit, taking my thoughts and attitudes to where Your life in me gives me Your confidence. Thank you for the gift of Your Word; I am ready for it to do Your work. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
MEMORY VERSE: “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.” — Jeremiah 17:7
I was in way over my head… and I knew it. Trying to land my first professional job in a way-too-big city, I had been entirely too ambitious. Having moved five hours from my small- town home, I was in desperate need of a job to fund this big step. If I tanked, what would I do? Certain that I had oversold myself, my mind began to spin.
What have I done? Am I really as competent as I said I was? What about all the jargon I don’t know? Why, oh why did I interview for this position? Am I even capable of this? What was I thinking? I don’t even have a college degree! I should have just stuck with what I am comfortable with because now I’m really in trouble!
My mind kept pushing me closer and closer to the cliff of failure. I couldn’t take the doubt inside of me. Skepticism stole my peace by day and my sleep by night.
I decided I just couldn’t sit around and wait for failure. On my first day, I located the Human Resources department, sat down with the gal who hired me and... talked myself right out of the job. Yes, I did! My employer was kind enough to find another position for me in another department that didn’t require me to dress a certain way or sit at a high-profile desk. My new position (in the warehouse) was out of sight — and probably out of my employers’ mind.
How’s that for lacking confidence?
Are you that woman? If so, you won’t be for long.
Maybe you’ve talked yourself out of so many opportunities that you question whether or not you can actually move forward. In fact, numb could describe how you feel on many days, simply surviving.
Don’t be too hard on yourself! Surviving is not actually an entirely bad place to be. We all want more than survival though. We want to know we matter. We want to live a life that makes a difference and in that process experience joy, peace, and hope — the abundant life Jesus spoke of.
I’ve discovered that finding confidence often means making a move when (and most often when) I think I can’t!
- Sometimes we have to do what we need to do even when we don’t have the confidence to do it.
And the process of doing the thing we need to do when we don’t have the confidence to do it is just what helps us find the confidence we need!
I think God actually orchestrates this whole thing, putting us in situations that demand our dependence on Him. That’s how it appears to me as I’ve been studying the Bible.
So... good news, then! You’re in great company. If you feel like your confidence is lacking or lost, then it’s the perfect time to act.
- Make your move especially when you think you can’t!
To make this move, we’re going to need at least enough confidence to get us moving a bit. So, let’s start by defining what confidence means.
According to dictionary.com, confidence means: “full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing.”1
I have confidence that my car will start when I insert the key. I have confidence that my house will cool off when I turn on my air conditioner and that my coffee will make me feel cozy in the winter.
But what about when the thing we place our trust in doesn’t come through?
There was a group of women in the Bible who experienced just that. What they were counting on didn’t come through. It forced them into a precarious situation — not by choice but by default.
To give us a bit of context, we’ll go to Exodus 2, when God’s people were slaves in Egypt. They cried out to God to set them free. God heard their cries and called a man named Moses to lead them out of Egypt and move them to a new home: the Promised Land.
The next book in the Bible, Numbers, is the setting for our story. The word Numbers is a Hebrew title meaning “in the wilderness” as it tells of the trip from Egypt, through the wilderness, to the Promised Land. A two-hundred-mile journey, that should have lasted approximately two weeks, took the Israelites over forty years. The Israelites wandered in this wide and vast desert space, often as a result of their own choices, which led to a disconnect with God.
We’re going to enter this narrative at a very exciting time. Toward the end of this journey, God calls for a census to be taken before the Israelites can finally leave the wilderness and move into the Promised Land.
God qualifies exactly who is to be counted in Numbers 26:4: “men twenty years old or more.” It is important to note not just the age but also the sex God calls to be counted in the census. (You can read the entire inventory of names in Numbers 26.) In verse 33, we meet for the first time the women we are going to zero in on and the only women listed in the entire 65-verse genealogy (except for a daughter of Asher):
“(Zelophehad son of Hepher had no sons; he had only daughters, whose names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah.)”
Whether I call them the daughters of Zelophehad or Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah, and Tirzah, their names are as long to type as they are hard to pronounce! For the sake of time and writer’s cramp, let’s call them the daughters of Z.
Zelophehad is singled out for one reason: He had no sons.
God then describes to Moses how the land was to be divided among the tribes, specifically to the sons of each tribe.
This reminds me of my extended family. Both of my parents came from farming families in Minnesota. While my parents stopped farming before I was born, many of their siblings continued. As my uncles began aging, they started passing on the family farms to my cousins, keeping the land, and the inheritance, in the family. As I think about my extended family, I can’t think of any of my relatives who are passing on their farm to their daughters. Each of my uncles is passing on his farm to one or more of his sons.
This is similar to what is happening in Numbers 26. The land is being divided up among the sons of the tribes of Israel.
This situation is where we find our potentially-out-of-confidence women.
Read Numbers 27:1–4.
Numbers 26:33 tells us Zelophehad had no sons, but it is not until chapter 27 that we discover Zelophehad is dead. Not only has he passed away, but Numbers 27 also makes it clear that his daughters were without brothers, husbands, or sons.
Single women with no father, no brothers, no husband, and no sons in this culture meant no land. Because of the tradition of handing down property only to men, these women were not going to get any acreage as the Promise Land was divided.
So where are they supposed to live? How would they take care of themselves?
Women have come a long way since ancient Bible times. While some women without means can still face similar problems, most women today are able to find work, get a paycheck, and find a place to live. Imagine how much different our lives would be if this were 1800s America instead of 2000s America. None of us, simply because we are women, would be permitted to own land. Without the chance for landownership, all of us would be completely dependent on a man (father, husband, or son) to provide housing of some sort. Where would we live if we didn’t have a man?
That is what the daughters of Z were facing: homelessness. They were stuck.
Describe a time in your life when you have felt stuck. A time when a solution to a problem seemed like it just couldn’t be found.
The culture these women lived in presented only one way for their provision: a man. And they didn’t have a single one! It would appear that they had no choice, but in fact they did. They had the choice to accept the voices of their culture as well as the whispers in their own heads, or they could make their move. Make the move they needed to make even if they didn’t have the confidence to make it.
Reread Numbers 27:2–4.
What advance did these ladies make?
Why was this a big deal?
Describe a time in your life when you were low on confidence, but had a big need for it.
Read Exodus 25:1–9.
Numbers 27:2 tells us that the daughters approached “the entrance to the tent of meeting.” Based on Exodus 25:8, what is the significance of this place where the daughters met with the Israelite leadership?
This was the time before God’s people “were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). Where God’s Spirit dwelt was crucial to how the people related to Him. The Tent of Meeting was where the priests and Moses went to meet and consult with God. So, when the daughters of Z approached the Tent of Meeting to speak with Moses, they were going to meet with the one God had appointed to be their intermediary.
It could be compared to our modern-day going to court. There the gals are, in a state of despair, looking for justice.
Read Psalm 82:3–4. What do these verses tell us about God’s view on the most vulnerable of society?
The women knew God’s heart toward the weak, fatherless, poor, oppressed, and needy. They knew because that is exactly who the Israelites were when they were slaves in Egypt. And what had God done? He had brought them justice and rescued them from Pharaoh. This was the God whom the women served. He defended the Israelites cause before the Egyptians, and He would defend the cause of these homeless women now.
Yet even knowing that, the women would be required to step out. They believed God said the land was for every one of His people, and that included them. Still, they would have to be vulnerable. Their actions show that they trusted that God would reward their vulnerability; He would care for them.
Maybe today you are feeling just as vulnerable as the daughters of Z might have felt. You sense God nudging you. Maybe you have felt compelled to a specific action, but instead of finding the land of opportunity, you’ve reached a dead end. No right, no left, no options, and you don’t have what you need or what it takes to create any.
That’s where the daughters of Z were too. Yet, the sisters decided they wouldn’t give up even though it seemed everything was against them. Stuck and stopped are not the same thing! They believed what the Lord said was true. They chose to move.
Look at these gals!
They didn’t shrink back because that is “just the way it was” or hide behind their culture’s norms. Their society said “normal” was having a man provide a place for them to live. They did not let that message paralyze them from finding a solution to their problem. They refused to remain stuck.
We don’t have the chance to get inside the heads of the daughters of Z, but I can only imagine doubt and fear might have come rolling in before they made their move. No one has ever done this before. Who do we think we are? What will the leaders think of us? Will the women of our community think we’re too bold? Troublemakers? What if the panel of men say no?
Our fear of failure can push us down before we even get up. The majority of our battle with confidence happens in our head. We listen to what has been said and what we have told ourselves and we believe it. This is why God makes it so clear that we need to write His Word on our hearts (Proverbs 7:3).
I’d love to think that I am as bold and sure of God’s promises as the daughters of Z, but that’s not always so. Culture constantly makes us aware of “our place” and challenges whether we have what it takes. Who do you think you are? For me, my lack of education has been a source of insecurity. Who am I to share with you what I’ve learned in God’s Word? Maybe you hear these deafening whispers too.
In life, there will be times when we have to do what we need to do even when we don’t have the confidence to do it. This is the perfect setup for God to show up. Stuck and stopped are not the same to Him. He can and will help us make our move. He has promised us, “[We] can do all this through him who gives [us] strength” (Philippians 4:13). I am going to take Him up on it! Won’t you too?
Excerpted with permission from Fearless Women of the Bible by Lynn Cowell, copyright Lynn Cowell.
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Apply It — I look at the daughters and wonder why and how they acted so boldly. How did they go against the norms of their culture to get what they believed God had for them? No one, especially the leaders of their tribe, would have expected the women to ask for land because no one had ever done that before. Their faith was groundbreaking. Ask God, like the daughters of Z, what is the move He would have you take in His strength. ~ Faith.Full