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Clear Words

Clear Words – Equal but not the same (Joshua 17:3-4)

Today’s Reading: Joshua 17-19

Today’s Reflection: Joshua 17:3-4

3) Now Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, had no sons, but only daughters, and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 4) They approached Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the leaders and said, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance along with our brothers.” So according to the mouth of the Lord he gave them an inheritance among the brothers of their father.

Joshua chapters 14 through 19 concern the allotment of the lands of Canaan to the children of Israel.  All of these allotments are made to male heads of families, with one notable exception.  Because Zelophehad had no sons before his death, the Lord instructed Moses to give his inheritance in the Promised Land to his daughters (Numbers 27:1-11).

The point here is simple: throughout the Bible we see God assigning men and women specific roles, like the role of leadership and headship in families being given to men as it is in this instance.  The problem is men often see such assignments by God as a statement of man’s superiority over women (and notice how men tend to judge their assignments as being more significant than those given to women?)  The example of the daughters of Zelophehad suggests this is not the case.  For if women were truly incapable of managing an allotment of land there is no way God would give them that responsibility.  Though under normal circumstances this wasn’t their assigned role, God knew they were up to the task and was clearly comfortable giving it to them.

When God made Eve for Adam, she is described as his ‘helpmeet’ or ‘helper fit for him’ (Genesis 2:18).  Unfortunately this is a very poor English translation.  The original Hebrew is ‘Ezer Kenedgo’, which means ‘sustainer’ (Ezer) ‘beside him’ (Kenedgo).  In fact, all other uses of ‘Ezer’ in the bible are used to describe God as our sustainer.  In God’s design, women were clearly meant to be the equal of men.

Then came the curse:

Genesis 3:16 – To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.  Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

As a consequence of sin, man was given rule over women.  And man has all too often abused this reality.  But man’s rule was a matter of assigned roles after the fall, not a judgment of man being superior to women.  Part of living in Christ is manifesting God’s Kingdom—life without the curse.  We can live life according to the roles God has given to men and women, yet be respectful of God’s original design.  We are equal even though we are not the same.

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