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There are many examples of 'Jewish' characters in Tanach (even post Matan Torah) who marry non-Jews (who are not described in Tanakh as converts), and their actions appear to be accepted. This makes me wonder: Was intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews permitted according to the halacha in the era of the Tanach?

Examples: Moshe (Ex 2), מַחְלוֹן וְכִלְיוֹן (Ruth 1), Shimshon (Judges 14), David (1 Samuel 3), Shlomo (1 Kings 11), Ahab (1 Kings 16), Esther...

Midrashim and answers from "tradition" will only be accepted if it can be demonstrated that they originate in that era. This is because explanations which are based on later halacha may not accurately reflect the circumstances present in the Tanach, and may instead be back-reading or inserting anachronistic concepts. This question assumes halacha changes over time. Answers which can prove this to be incorrect are acceptable.

Related: Is it permissible for a Jewish woman to marry a Muslim man and vice versa?

Related: Anyone who says these people sinned is mistaken. For real?

There are two general approaches I've seen with questions like these: 1. They didn't actually violate halacha, because < insert extenuating circumstance or extra-textual explanation here. > 2. They did violate halacha, and that's that, and we simply shouldn't do what they did. This question is asking about the assumption underlying both approaches, namely, that the halacha as we know it is the same as it was then. Maybe they didn't violate it, without any extratextual explanations, because it was different back then?

This question is looking for evidence demonstrating that the halacha was either the same or was different in that era.

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see: Rambam, Hilchot Issurei Biah 13:16 –  Menachem Jun 12 at 2:01
@Menachem - Contrary to Rambam, the verses don't say anything about conversion. 1 Kings Chapter 11 –  Shmuel Jun 12 at 2:14
If Halacha changed over time then we can have no way of ever proving prior circumstances. That's a problem for this question, but not necessarily for the position. –  Double AA Jun 12 at 4:50
@Shmuel Right. So if they don't say anything, how could you know if it happened or not? –  Double AA Jun 12 at 4:51
You seem to be rejecting the tradition that these gentiles converted and asking for evidence that they did so or that they didn't need to. But that doesn't apply to Joseph, as even tradition grants that his wife didn't convert (nor did he: both were gentiles). You shouldn't include him in your question IMO. –  msh210 Jun 12 at 6:17

2 Answers 2

The people you list did not marry non-Jews. Joseph and Moshe married before the giving of the Torah and the wives converted to the religion of their husbands according to the standards and practices of those times.

Rus was a convert and the prophet Samuel wrote Megillas Rus in order to show that she had converted legally from the beginning. I show in What would have happened if Orpah came with? and How to understand the use of גֹאֵל in Rus that Rus was a valid convert. Had she not been, then King David would never have been allowed to be the king because he would not have been a member of the tribe of Yehudah.

Yael was not jewish. She was a descendant of Yisro from those who had not converted. She also did not "marry" Sisra. She seduced him so that she could kill him. This is the idea of "mitzva haba beaveira" (a commandment that is done via a sin).

Shimshon married women from the Pelishtim, but converted them first. Also we know how that turned out. (See the commentators in that section of Shoftim).

Shlomo also converted the women first and is castigated for not keeping enough control over them to prevent them from reverting to paganism. This is from memory as I do not have the meforshim. However, I notice that the term used is אהב and not לקח which implies it was not "really" a marriage. Ralbag on sentence 3 says that he married the 700 royal women with Chupah and Kiddushin. Malbim says that he became lax in minor matters. In his old age he overlooked their backsliding. Malbim says that the source of the gemoro is that he is compared to his father. He was not as strict as King David who would not have let them get away with it at all. Rabbi Yechezkel Levinstein Z'tzl mashgiach of Ponovezh and later Mir said that the sins were based on his high level and not what we would recognize. Rabbi Chaim Rabinowitz in Da'as Sofrim also says that he converted them and was calm and patient with them to wean them from pagan practices. See also Rashi in Sanhedrin 91b.

Esther was kidnapped and raped by the king. She had no choice in the matter and it was not called a "marriage" (according to Jewish law).

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Re Shlomo: Where does it say he converted them? 1 Kings 11 –  Shmuel Jun 12 at 2:21
@Shmuel It doesn't, as you know. What are you trying to get at with this question of yours? The text doesn't say it, but tradition does. You know this already. Is your question what Halakha was at that time or what would we know about history if we consider only the verses of Tanakh? –  Double AA Jun 12 at 2:24
What Halakha was at that time, as stated in the question (and tags). –  Shmuel Jun 12 at 2:36
@Shmuel Your telling me different things in different comment threads... –  Double AA Jun 12 at 2:36
@Shmuel Welcome to Judaism. –  Double AA Jun 12 at 2:39

Not with the Seven Nations of Canaan:

וְלֹא תִתְחַתֵּן, בָּם: בִּתְּךָ לֹא-תִתֵּן לִבְנוֹ, וּבִתּוֹ לֹא-תִקַּח לִבְנֶךָ.

neither shalt thou make marriages with them: thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.

(Deut 7:3)

Also, implicitly:

לֹא-תִכְרֹת לָהֶם וְלֵאלֹהֵיהֶם, בְּרִית. לֹא יֵשְׁבוּ בְּאַרְצְךָ, פֶּן-יַחֲטִיאוּ אֹתְךָ לִי: כִּי תַעֲבֹד אֶת-אֱלֹהֵיהֶם, כִּי-יִהְיֶה לְךָ לְמוֹקֵשׁ.

Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in thy land--lest they make thee sin against Me, for thou wilt serve their gods--for they will be a snare unto thee.

(Ex 23:32-33)

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