I received the following question via The Question Box on our church website, www.plymouth-church.com, where I have answered questions for about four years.
What does it mean to stay with your own tribe? Also where in the bible does it say this?
The only thing in the Bible that is even remotely related to your question occurred during the time Moses was leading the Israelites in the wilderness.
The entire nation was told not to intermarry with the Canaanite nations, lest they lead Israel into pagan idolatry. The tribes of Israel did intermarry among themselves, however.
The laws of inheritance were through the males. In Numbers 27:1-11, the daughters of Zelophehad came to Moses because their father had no son. They requested that they be allowed to inherit from their father instead of the inheritance passing to the sons of their father’s brothers. After consulting the LORD, and the LORD said:
What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must give them property [i.e., in the land of Canaan when Israel took it] as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and turn their father’s inheritance over to them. – Numbers 27:7
This was to be done whenever a man died without sons. Inheritance would go to the daughters. If he had no sons or daughters, it would go through his brothers; if he had no brothers, it would next go through his father’s brothers and then to the nearest relatives.
Later, the other members of Zelophehad’s tribe came to Moses. Their fear was that their tribal inheritance would leave the tribe and go to members of other tribes, IF the daughters of Zelophehad married men from other Israelite tribes.
Then at the LORD’s command Moses gave this order to the Israelites: “What the tribe of the descendants of Joseph is saying is right. This is what the LORD commands for Zelophehad’s daughters: They may marry anyone they please as long as they marry within the tribal clan of their father. No inheritance in Israel is to pass from tribe to tribe, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal land inherited from his forefathers. Every daughter who inherits land in any Israelite tribe must marry someone in her father’s tribal clan, so that every Israelite will possess the inheritance of his fathers. No inheritance may pass from tribe to tribe, for each Israelite tribe is to keep the land it inherits.” – Numbers 36:5-9
So, that is what these seven daughters of Zelophehad did. They married within their tribe so that the tribal inheritance would remain intact, even though these daughters inherited because their father had no sons.
This was for integrity of the tribal inheritance. It was not a general prohibition against marrying someone from another tribe. It was certainly not a prohibition against marrying someone from another race. Moses himself had a wife who was an Ethiopian. See here for my answer to a question about inter-racial marriage.