I have the distinct impression that I am going to be very relieved to leave Numbers behind, because there are large sections about which I have nothing to say. Though I may mumble something about names while growling incoherently.

But! Inheritance! The daughters of Zelophehad who have no brothers step forward to demand their inheritance.

I will assume from this, then, that a woman would not typically have been able to have property on her own. Which is a generally horrible state of affairs, but also not one that would have been uncommon in the ancient world.

I do find it interesting, however, that the daughters are placed above other male relatives. A man’s inheritance passes to his daughters if he has no son. But it only passes to his brothers (or other male kinship along the line) unless he also has no daughters.

So I wonder; were there then more women independent? If a man had sons and daughters, presumably her a woman’s brother(s) would care for her in her father’s absence. But does the fact that she might inherit mean she wouldn’t pass automatically into the custody of an uncle or other male relative in the event of her father’s death?

If not, I’m not really sure that would have been a good thing. My feminist mind, of course, says independence is awesome! But at the time, a woman without the protection of a male head of family would have been at risk; she lacked the protections afforded by that. So would have been a blessing  or a burden?

On the other hand, I can’t help but imagine how sweet that victory would have tasted to women who might be facing a great loss; either destitution or at the very least seeing their family’s inheritance given away while they grieved. How validating it must have seemed to be recognized even in some small way. Because we look at how far they could go, but I wonder if they had any time to savor the step that was won.

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