Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Women's Rights

Daily Readings
Proverbs 17 + Numbers 36 + Deuteronomy 29 + Romans 11

Quote of the Day
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and to our children forever, to observe all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29

Daily Text: Numbers 36:9-10
No inheritance shall be transferred from one tribe to another; for each of the tribes of the Israelites shall retain its own inheritance.
The daughters of Zelophehad did as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Women’s Rights
The daughters Zelophehad arise again. It is rather amazing how often these women are mentioned. They pop up in the geneaology of Numbers 26 and come before Moses in chapter 27 and now in the closing chapter they are referenced exclusively once again. If the rabbis were correct in their assumption, we have the story of their fathers sin in Numbers 15:32-36. Actually, this reference is neither here or there in regards to the references to these daughters whom we shall read of again in Joshua and I Chronicles. Why these repeated references?

The possibility I put forward is that the ruling that daughters might inherit was a profound change among the people of this time. Limited though it was by the male pattern of keeping land within the tribe, it set a precedent for women’s rights that must have been the center of much social upheaval and widespread passionate conversation. So these relatives of the five daughters come back to Moses to clarify that the land stays within the tribe. And Moses agrees, but Moses does not budge on the right of the daughters to inherit. What a breath of fresh air this must have been for women throughout the congregation of Israel. Frankly, for the daughters themselves, the ruling probably made them objects of unwanted attention and ridicule. All of this is supposition, however, the repeated attention to it in Numbers and the historical books points up the shudder that went through the community as age old patterns of male dominated inheritance were altered. If women could inherit and hold property they could not be viewed as property!

Woman and Man
from The Princess
Alfred Tennyson

The woman’s cause is man’s; they rise or sink
Together, dwarf’d or godlike, bond or free:
If she be small, slight-natured, miserable,
How shall men grow? But work no more alone!
The man be more of woman, she of man;
He gain in sweetness and in moral height,
Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world;
She mental breadth, nor fail in childward care,
Nor lose the childlike in the larger mind;
Till at the last she set herself to man,
Like perfect music unto noble words;
And so these twain, upon the skirts of Time,
Sit side by side, full-summ’d in all their powers,
Dispensing harvests, sowing the To-be,
Self-reverent each and reverencing each,
Distinct in individualities,
But like each other, ev’n as those who love.
Then comes the statelier Eden back to men;
Then reign the world’s great bridals, chaste and calm:
Then springs the crowning race of human-kind.
May these things be!
404:146 II

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