|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
27:1-11 The five daughters of Zelophehad considered themselves as left destitute, having neither father nor brother to inherit any land. Their believing expectation that the word of the Lord would be performed in due season, and their desire of an interest in the promised inheritance; and the modest, candid manner in which they asked, without secret murmurs or discontents, are a good example. They ask for a possession in the land of Canaan. Herein they discovered, 1. Strong faith in the power and promise of God, concerning the giving of the land of Canaan to Israel. 2. And earnest desire of a place and name in the land of promise, which was a type of heaven. 3. Respect and honour for their father, whose name was dear to them now he was gone. He never had done any thing that might bar his children's claim. It is a comfort to parents when they come to die, if though they have smarted for their own sin, yet they are not conscious of any of those iniquities which God will visit on their children. God himself gives judgment. He takes notice of the affairs, not only of nations, but of private families, and orders them according to his will. The petition is granted. Those who seek an inheritance in the land of promise, shall have what they seek for, and other things shall be added to them.
Verse 4. - Give unto us... a possession among the brethren of our father. The daughters of Zelophehad did not ask for any share of what had been their father's, but they asked that the lands which would have been assigned to their father in the settlement of Canaan might still be assigned to them, so that their father's name might attach to those lands, and be handed down with them. The request assumes that the "brethren" of Zelophehad would receive an inheritance in the promised land, either personally or as represented by their sons; hence it seems clear that Zelophehad was not of the elder generation, which had forfeited all their rights and expectations in Canaan, but of the younger, to whom the inheritance was transferred (Numbers 14:29-32). This is confirmed by the consideration that these women were not married until some time after this (Numbers 36:11; cf. Joshua 17:8, 4), and must, therefore, according to the almost invariable custom, have been quite young at this time. It is reasonable to suppose that the heads of separate families to whom the land was distributed would be at this time men of from forty-five to sixty years of age, comprising the elder half of the generation which grew up in the wilderness. Zelophehad would have been among these, but that he was cut off, perhaps in the plague of serpents, or in the plague of the Arboth Mesh, and left only unmarried girls to represent him.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son.... Or be withdrawn, and his family lose their part and share on that account; this they thought was unreasonable: according to the Targum of Jonathan, to prevent the name of their father being lost, and his part in the land, their motion was, that their mother might marry their father's brother, according to the law in Deuteronomy 25:5, with which Jarchi agrees; but it does not appear that that law was as yet in being; though how otherwise the name of their father would be preserved, than by raising up seed in that way, is not easy to say; except, as some think, it was done by a son of one of those heiresses, or by the first son of everyone of them, being called after the name of their grandfather Zelophehad, or their mother's grandfather Hepher; though the Jews (t) commonly by the "name" understand no other than the "inheritance", which seems to be confirmed by what follows:
give us therefore a possession among the brethren of our fathers; a part with their uncles, or their children; by which they express their faith that the children of Israel would inherit the land, though as yet it was not conquered, nor even entered into; and might signify, as some think, their concern to have a part and portion in the heavenly inheritance the land of Canaan was typical of; and if so, as Ainsworth observes, they may be considered as five wise virgins indeed.
(t) Pesikta, T. Bab. Jebamot, fol. 49. 1. Moses Cotzensis Praecept. Affirm. 51. Apud Selden. de Succession. ad leg. Ebra. c. 14. p. 97, 98.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. Give unto us a possession among the brethren of our father—Those young women perceived that the males only in families had been registered in the census. Because there were none in their household, their family was omitted. So they made known their grievance to Moses, and the authorities conjoined with him in administering justice. The case was important; and as the peculiarity of daughters being the sole members of a family would be no infrequent or uncommon occurrence, the law of inheritance, under divine authority, was extended not only to meet all similar cases, but other cases also—such as when there were no children left by the proprietor, and no brothers to succeed him. A distribution of the promised land was about to be made; and it is interesting to know the legal provision made in these comparatively rare cases for preserving a patrimony from being alienated to another tribe. (See on Nu 36:5).
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