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QUESTION: What Does It Mean To Stay In Your Own Tribe?


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.

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6 Responses

  1. Jerry–

    I’ll be interested to know if this answers this person’s question or not. Of course, they may have asked more and you clipped it for brevity.

    My initial thought is that they are asking about staying within our “tribe” as in marrying within our denomination. As you know, that is one of those implied beliefs we sometimes end up holding.

  2. I’m not sure what the real intent of this question is. “Tribe” now sometimes means “denomination,” but I also thought it might be a question about inter-racial marriage. This still comes up fairly frequently. In the four years I have been answering questions over at our congregation’s website it has come up quite a few times. Of course, the question could also refer to cultural heritage.

    In any case, I took the question literally and gave a literal answer.

  3. Eric,
    It is not the purpose of this blog to condemn any to hell. That is not our task. When Jesus returns, he will judge the world in righteousness. Until then, he said he came. Not to condemn the world but that we might be saved through him.

    One of the things he saves us from is our sinfulness, including the sins of homosexuality, adultery, fornication, greed, lying – and even the sin of judgmentalism. On this blog, we discuss the truth; we seek to discover truth; but we do not legislate truth, for there is one lawgiver. When we become judges, we end up taking his place. So, we will speak truth in love ( hopefully ) and deep humility (again, hopefully). I have deleted your comments because they do not appear to conform to the level of discussion I want to see on this blog. To answer your question, I referred you to Scripture. I did not tell you what to think about that Scripture: it says what it says, and speaks for itself to each person who reads it with desire to know God’s will.

    • i, am not judging, just want to inform them that they are wrong.

      • Which, of course, is the essence of what judging is all about. What I am suggesting to you, Eric, is that you approach things less negatively. Show the more excellent way, as Paul did in 1 Corinthians. The mistake Phil Robinson (Duck Dynasty Commander) made is that he failed, in his comments that created such an uproar, to show the love God has for the sinner. He more or less just said, “All you people are sinners” without showing how God loves them and grieves for their sinfulness – and did it in a crude, aggressive way that could not have anything but a negative impact on the people he was addressing. I do not want this blog to become a forum for such an approach to the genuine problems that homosexuals have, even when they do not recognize that they have a problem. Yes, there are many people who call good evil and call evil good. You do not convert them, however, by simply engaging in a shouting match.

    • On the left hand side, near the top of this blog is a place where you may search for particular subjects. Type “masturbation” in that box, and you will have a list of posts that discuss it in one way or another with the first few lines of the post. Click on the title of the post and you will be taken to that post. There is at least one post that discusses this subject in some detail and gives a couple of resources for further reading.

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