Hebrew In Israel | Daughters Inheriting – Learn Torah

Hebrew In Israel | Daughters Inheriting – Learn Torah

Yoel Halevi No Comments
At the end of Bamidbar  we read the following:
וַתִּהְיֶינָה מַחְלָה תִרְצָה, וְחָגְלָה וּמִלְכָּה וְנֹעָה–בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד:  לִבְנֵי דֹדֵיהֶן, לְנָשִׁים.   מִמִּשְׁפְּחֹת בְּנֵי-מְנַשֶּׁה בֶן-יוֹסֵף, הָיוּ לְנָשִׁים; וַתְּהִי, נַחֲלָתָן, עַל-מַטֵּה, מִשְׁפַּחַת אֲבִיהֶן.

“Machlah, Tirtzah, Hoglah, Milkah and No‘ah all got married to sons of their father’s brothers. They were married into the families of the descendants of M’nasheh the son of Yosef, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of their father’s family” Numbers 36:11-12

The text is giving us the final account of the legal problem presented before Moshe.  The dilemma was “can women inherit?”.  This question was raised due to the problem that land can be moved from one tribe to another by marriage.  If a woman would inherit land and married into another tribe, the father tribe of the wife can lose land.  Land was the most important item one can own, and this would weaken the abilities and rights of the original tribe.

Women Inheriting

It was not unusual for women in the ANE to inherit from their fathers.  There are several documents from the ANE where women received inheritance from their father, and there are no limitations on what can be given.  Under normal circumstances,  land was given to the sons, while daughters would belong to the husband’s family.  Land was especially kept in the family if it were a royal grant from the king, and was given to commemorate the good deeds of the father.  Maintaining the name of the father on the land was also a form of keeping the rights on the land.  Hence, in cases like this, the land had to stay in the hands of the sons or male family members due to its royal gift.

However, when no sons were born, and no men were adopted to marry the daughter, the daughters would substitute the sons.  Several examples can be found in Nuzi (north Iraq 15-14 centuries BC) where daughters inherited if there were no sons.  Another case can be found in Lagesh where a man called Gudea can give his inheritance to his daughter if he has no sons.  In our case we are dealing with a very similar situation.  The land was given as a type of gift from YHWH (The King) to his servant for being loyal (Avraham or Tzlophchad). Hence we are not only dealing with personal power of the family, but also with royal grant rights.

How Was This Resolved?

As can be seen in the Torah, the issue was resolved by giving the land to the daughters who then married inside the family.  This action maintained the rights of the daughters and the tribe.  Besides this information, archeology gives us more insight on the subject.  In a grouping of tax letters from the northern kingdom dating to the mid 8th century BCE, we find the names of two daughters who were used as district or city names for the lands belonging to the tribes.  The first letter bares the name of Choglah stating:  In the 15th year from Choglah. To Chanan Ba’ara from Yatzit

The second letter names No’ah and states:  In the 15th year to Gomer from No’a Ovadyav to Uriyav.

What this shows us is that the names of the daughters were preserved as regional names to protect the rights of the families of the daughters and their land.  Though sons were probably born to the daughters, the names of the original inheritors of the land was preserved.  This act shows how important it was to keep the rights of families, even hundreds of years later.

Ahituv.S, Handbook Of Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions, Bialik Institute,1992
Maidman. M P, Nuzi Textt and Their Uses as Historical Evidence, JBL, 2010
Olam Hatanakh, Tel-Aviv 1997
Originally Published: 7 August 2016

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