Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How Did the Ancient Tribes of Israel Remain Distinct?

We know that it was possible, for a long period of time, for the twelve tribes of ancient Israel to remain distinct.  But how in the world did they accomplish this?  I have so many questions:


  • Did they have any checks on marital assimilation?  That is, were couples from different tribes discouraged or prohibited from intermarrying?
  • Did they have any checks on cultural assimilation?  In other words, was the tribal culture distinct enough to ensure that members only identified with their own tribe?
  • Did they have any checks on structural assimilation?  That is, did they regulate the permeability of the tribes?
  • Did they have any checks on civic assimilation?  That is, did tribes restrict participation in tribal governance to tribal members?


If anyone knows the answers to any of these sub-questions or can recommend a book on this subject then please let me know.  I want to learn more about this.  I currently have no idea how sub-distinctiveness in the ancient Israelite tribes worked.



12 comments:

  1. There weren't any restrictions of marriage among tribes, except for the daughters of Tzelofachad were told to marry within their tribe so that their inheritance would remain there.

    It would be logical, that although inter-tribal marriage was allowed, it wouldn't be so common. Likely you would meet your marriage partner within the community in which you lived. Simeon lived within the tribal allotment of Judah, and so intermarried with the tribe. The tribal land inheritance passed through the males, so it wouldn't seem likely that a man would pack up and go somewhere else, leaving behind his land that he could not sell permanently. With the Babylonian exile, everything got mixed up. But it is believed that when Messiah returns, he will tell us what tribe we belong to.

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    1. It may be the case that the injunction to marry within the tribal clan (Num. 36:6) applied to everyone, not just to the daughters of Zelophahad...Does anyone know of any cases of tribal exogamy? If not, then tribal endogamy may have been the rule...I'm not sure...

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    2. In other words, my question is now this:

      Does anyone know of instances where a member of Tribe A married a member of Tribe B?

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    3. "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 their ancestors," (Numbers 36:8). This looks like endogamy was the rule...and I think that if this was the rule for women then it would've been the rule for men.

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    4. But how would they have regulated this???

      (sorry for the disjointed comments)

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  2. They did it by the NAME of the Father

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  3. As Jewish Princess already said, the inheritance went through the men, meaning there would not have been a conflict. Also it would seem that the tribes were governed in a similar way to the United States, many states but one national affiliation and one national law. They would have definitely had governors (judges) per each tribal territory, whether they had to be part of the tribe to govern each particular land, I have no idea, but I would assume that would have made the most sense.

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  4. The tribes could not have been kept through inheritance in the land. They were kept before they entered and after they were scattered. The book of numbers shows they were kept by the name of the Father.

    This is why Yeshua gave the Church the name of the Father and prayed the Father keep us in the NAME.

    This is also why geneologies are important, and even when the geneology appears lost, G-d has the names written, either in heaven or in earth. He knows all of his and call them by their name.

    The Torah has the answers to these questions above.....Numbers shows real life examples of how this was done.

    Blessed is he who comes in THE NAME of the Father.

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    1. I agree that God ultimately is the one who maintains Israel and maintains their distinction, but the divisions of tribal territories and even in the wilderness the divisions of the tribes is orchestrated to maintain those distinctions, however in exile those distinctions have since been lost, Jews today, are a mashed potato... no more distinction exist, but since God is all powerful, this distinction will clearly be put back into place one day.

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  5. The question was not how do they maintain tribal identity today and I think everyone knows about loss of distiction. They question was "How Did the Ancient Tribes of Israel Remain Distinct?"

    "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink" :)

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  6. Peter, you asked HOW this would be enforced. I believe the answer could be in the organizational structure Moses installed at Jethro’s instigation. There were “captains” of tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands who were put in charge of judging the people (Exodus 18:20-22, 25; Deuteronomy 1:15-16). This pattern remained even into the times of the kings (1 Samuel 8:12) and the prophets (2 Kings 1:9). In fact, the habit seems to have still been ingrained into the people in the Master’s lifetime (Mark 6:39-40). A good question in this conversation could be “Who married these folks”? These officials would be good candidates for the ones who regulated who could marry who. My guess would be that it was these officials who were likely organized (as most tribal societies are) by clans, as Jewish Princess said, by patriarchal names.

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  7. By the way, just for informational purposes (as they always told us in the Corps) here's a brief study on the issue of clans:
    Genesis 10:5, 18, 20, 31=32; 25:16; Exodus 6:14-15, 17, 19, 24-25; Leviticus 25:10, 41, 47, 49; Numbers 1:2, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 42; 2:34; 3:15, 18-23, 27, 29-39; 4:2, 18, 22, 24, 28-29, 33-46; 10:4; 26:7, 12; 14-15, 18, 20, 22-28, 34-38, 41-50, 57; 26:5-6, 12, 13, 15-58; 27:1, 4, 11; 32:40; 33:54; 36:1, 6, 8, 12; Deuteronomy 29:18; Joshua 7:14, 17; 13:15, 23-24, 28-29, 31; 9:1; 15:1, 12, 20; 16:5, 8; 17:2, 7; 18:11, 20-21, 28; 19:1, 8, 10, 16-17, 23-24, 31-32, 39-40, 48; 21:4-10, 20, 26-27, 33-34, 40; 22:14, 21, 30; Judges 5:15-16; 18:2, 8; 1 Samuel 9:21; 10:19, 21; 18:18; 20:6, 29; 23:23; 2 Samuel 14:7; Job 31:34; Jeremiah 1:15; Amos 3:1-2; Micah 5:2; Nahum 3:4; Zechariah 9:7

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