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B'Midbar/Numbers 27:7 The daughters of Tzelophehad are right in their words.
Since the literal translation of the verse would be: "Thus the daughters of Tzelophehad are speaking", which is difficult to understand in context, a number of the commentators try to explain what this means. The word is a feminine plural Qal participle of the verb , to speak, which is almost always used in the Pi'el stem and hardly ever in Qal; it is used only once in the whole of the Tanakh with this spelling. TheBaal HaTurim points out that a Masoretic note connects it with 1 Kings 5:23 where a different spelling of the word is translated as the noun 'rafts' and suggests that Tzelophehad's daughters were as full of wisdom as the sea is full of water (cf. Isaiah 11:9); the Sages commented that these women were wise, righteous and expositors of the Torah (b. Bava Batra 119b).
Rashi starts by focusing on the word , positing that the word should be understood as Targum Onkelos renders it: 'properly'; we might say 'correctly' or 'accurately'. Rashi's sense here is that "their eye saw that which the eye of Moshe did not see"; the daughters of Tzelophehad had understood an aspect of the laws on inheritance that Moshe had not yet grasped. Rashi goes on to make another comment: "They claimed correctly - fortunate is the person whose words the Holy One, Blessed is He, confirms" (Sifrei 134). On most occasions, the initiative is with G-d: He give commands, judgements and explanations - Moshe relays these to the people; but here, Tzelophehad's daughters have originated a legal point and G-d is confirming that they have spoken correctly.
In the gospels, Yeshua talks about two people who built houses - one upon the rock, one upon sand - and the consequences of building on the right - or wrong - foundation. These verses have been used by generations of evangelists to encourage people to make a commitment to Yeshua. However, consider how those words start: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts upon them ..." (Matthew 7:24, NASB). Whenever the text uses that word 'therefore', we have to consider what has immediately preceded the current verse because 'therefore' introduces a summary or a set of consequences of what has gone before. In this case, the previous verses are among the more disturbing things that Yeshua says: "Many will say to Me on that day, 'L-rd, L-rd, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (vv. 22-23, NASB), and before that Yeshua has been talking about good trees and bad trees and the fruit that they bear, with the instruction, "So then, you will know them by their fruits" (v. 20, NASB). The endurance and collapse of the houses is thus a consequence of the building process - G-d has confirmed the true state of the person by bringing rain and floods into their lives and the condition and durability of the house becomes obvious to all.
Rav Sha'ul takes up the same theme in his letter to the Philippians: "More than that, I count all things to be loss ... that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:8,10-11, NASB). At first reading, this might appear to be saying that Sha'ul is expecting to earn his resurrection by performing miracles (the power of His resurrection), suffering and giving up his life as a martyr. A closer reading, however, shows that Sha'ul is actually saying the same thing as Yeshua: the miracles, the suffering and the martyrdom are both the rain and floods and the fruit of knowing Yeshua. Sha'ul's house stood, rather than collapsing, in spite of everything that the world threw at him, because it was founded upon Yeshua; the fact that it continued to stand was the living proof - or fruit - of his relationship with G-d. As Sha'ul said: "I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Messiah Yeshua" (v. 12, NASB). G-d's purpose, which He would accomplish, was that Sha'ul should stand, so Sha'ul pressed on - co-operated with G-d's process - to reveal the fruit that G-d had planned all along.
Further Study: 1 Peter 1:3-5; Acts 5:34-39
Application: Are you blessed by seeing your words and life being confirmed by G-d or is your life always crumbling around your ears? Take stock today and consider what fruit your life is showing and what that tells you about the state of your relationship with G-d. He wants us all to bear good fruit.
© Jonathan Allen, 2007
Comment - 01Jul07 09:43 Kevin: Thank You Abba for rain and floods - Your mercy is new every morning - Amen
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