More than 200 years passed from the time the sons of Yaakov went to Egypt to the time the Hebrews arrived in Israel. When they arrived, the land was divided for the 12 tribes. This would suggest that they didn't intermarry when they were slaves in Egypt, when they were in the desert and when they lived in the Land of Israel. Maybe I'm wrong, and what determined your Tribe was your father's/mother's tribe.

Were inter-tribe marriages allowed? If yes, what determined your tribe?

  • 2
    The verse says the people were arranged למשפחותם לבית אבותם accd to their families to the houses of their fathers.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 21:32
  • See too the last chapter in Numbers.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 21:38
  • I'm inferring from @DoubleAA's link is the fact that the daughters of Tzelafchad brought up this issue and that a special law was implemented to prevent this afterwards indicates that tribes must have intermarried, or, at least, it was allowed, even if no one did it.
    – DanF
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 21:55
  • To answer a part of your question: it is unanimously agreed that a person's tribe is determined strictly by patrilineal descent.
    – LN6595
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 0:06

1 Answer 1


I just noticed that you asked about before the Exodus. The rules then were the same. A child of two people was a member of his father's tribe. The inheritance at the entry into the land was based on the entrant's tribe (and from his father). This had nothing to do with "forbidding" a man from one tribe to marry a woman from another.

בְּמִדְבַּר Chapter 36 has the halacha of an heiress (a woman with no brothers whose father dies) being forbidden to marry a man from a different tribe because the children (who would inherit the land of their maternal grandfather) are members of their father's tribe. Thus, the land which should have stayed in the mother's tribe, is now owned by the father's tribe. This applied only to the generation that entered Eretz Yisrael. The halacha was cancelled on the 15th of Av the next generation.

Note that a woman who had brothers was allowed to marry out of the tribe because she would not inherit land from her father. Similarly, a female Levite or the daughter of a Kohen did not have any land to inherit.

Chabad.org explains that on the 15th of Av:

The tribes of Israel were permitted to intermarry. In order to ensure the orderly division of the Holy Land between the twelve tribes of Israel, restrictions had been placed on marriages between members of two different tribes. A woman who had inherited tribal lands from her father was forbidden to marry out of her tribe, lest her children—members of their father’s tribe—cause the transfer of land from one tribe to another by inheriting her estate (as recounted in Numbers 36). This ordinance was binding on the generation that conquered and settled the Holy Land; when the restriction was lifted, on the 15th of Av, the event was considered a cause for celebration and festivity.

  • Is there a biblical reference to the 15th of av and the lifting of the restriction? If so, can you please post it? Thanks. Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 21:58
  • @MohammadHadi-Abdullah If you’re asking an Orthodox opinion and expecting 100% of the time to get an answer from strictly the written Torah, you’re going to be usually disappointed. Here the source is Taanis 30b, which expounds Numbers 36:6 as indicating that this law would not be permanent, but it doesn’t provide a Biblical source that on the 15th of Av specifically the ban was lifted.
    – DonielF
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 1:40

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