The book of Numbers (27: 1–11) tells of Zelophehad dying in the wilderness without leaving any sons to inherit his portion in the land promised to the tribes. The five daughters of Zelophehad presented to Moses their claim to the inheritance. When Moses, uncertain of the law in such a case, presented the claim of the five daughters to God, Moses was informed that, in the absence of sons, daughters do inherit. When the heads of the clan later appealed to Moses that the decision in the case of the daughters might result in a diminution of their tribal lands, since the daughters might marry into another tribe so that the land given to them would then pass over to that tribe, Moses, at the command of God, decided that the daughters of Zelophehad might only marry into their own tribe (Numbers 36). According to the Rabbis this ruling, banning intermarriage between the tribes, was rescinded in a later generation (see SUCCESSION). Together with other biblical heroines, the daughters of Zelophehad have been praised by Jewish feminists (see FEMINISM) as pioneers in the struggle for women's rights.
Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.