“Are there women Gideons?”
This is about the occupational hazards of a writer. Take me, having a blast with Gideon’s story, but starting to reel from being wound up all day and worrying that I won’t fall asleep. So, I watch Shark Tank, Hawaii Five-0, and read jokes in an old Reader’s Digest. Once in bed, I mean to recite a Psalm, but sleep overtakes me. By early morning I’m at it again, wondering if Gideon Bibles are still placed in hotel rooms. Before making coffee, I Google the organization envisioned by two evangelical salesmen who shared a hotel room in 1898. Feel free to find out the answer to the nagging question above. I’ll do the same, but posing an even stranger one next.
Have you heard of Zelophehad’s five daughters?
The name rolls off my tongue so easily because I have long loved sharing their remarkable story. Recorded in the Book of Numbers, it validates the point made by Jesus in Matthew 18:19, “…I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” So, the power of agreement trumps that of numbers. That explains Gideon’s 300 kindred spirits.
Numbers 26:33 introduces the family from the tribe of Manasseh. It stresses that Zelophehad “had no sons…only daughters, whose names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah.” The first-born was sickly, the meaning of Mahlah. The next baby was quiet and therefore named Noah. Daughter number three – Hoglah – was lively and eager to spread her wings; hence the name Partridge. By the time the fourth girl arrived, her father went whole hog and named her Milcah, meaning queen. When his resigned wife presented him with a fifth daughter, dad was so smitten with the newest darling girl that he named her Tirzah – delightsome.
God had ordered a second census to settle tribal allocation issues before Israel was to take possession of Canaan. Zelophehad was dead and females had no legal prospects. Instead of wailing over their bleak future, his five daughters appeared before Israel’s leadership headed by Moses and boldly asked for their rightful inheritance on their father’s behalf. The “friend of God” promptly brought their case before the Lord and He said to Moses, “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance….” This became law for all of Israel.
So, who among the sisters played the true “queen?” Whose realm of influence conquered doubt or dissent? Did frail constitution or natural assertiveness weigh in more heavily? What about the childhood baggage of shame or blame attached to their names? The five forward-looking “girls” asked in their father’s name and were heard.