6: 15). The Shaulites are listed as a clan in Numbers 26: 13.
And Manasseh had a son through an Aramean concubine
( 1 Chronicles 7: 14).
The tribe of Judah also has mixed origins. Judah had
several sons by the daughter of Shua, a Canaanite (Genesis
38: 2; 1 Chronicles 2: 3). Judah’s first two sons died because
they were wicked (Genesis 38: 8), but the third son, Shelah,
had many descendants ( 1 Chronicles 4: 21–22; Numbers
26: 20). The woman involved in all this, Tamar, is of
unknown ancestry, but would become the mother of twins
by her father-in-law, Judah (Genesis 38: 12–30), one of
which (Perez) will be in the lineage of David and Jesus.
We should also note that Judah’s intention was to lay with
a non-Israelite woman on the road to Timnah (Timnah was
where Samson got his Philistine wife, Judges 14: 1), with
the potential that a child would result.
The beginning of the house of Israel included ample
opportunity for mixing with other nations. It might be that
many of the men in Israel would not, in the end, carry the Y
chromosome of Jacob, let alone the mitochondrial sequences
of the 12+ tribal mothers. But there is much more to consider
before we can draw any conclusions.
The Exodus population
The Bible describes a ‘mixed multitude’ that left Egypt
with the Hebrews (Exodus 12: 38). These people incited
the Israelites to sin (Numbers 11: 4), and many died, but the
question of who they were and how ‘friendly’ they and the
Israelites were is an open question. Some may have started
out in Pharaoh’s household (Exodus 9: 20). Many of them
apparently made it through the wilderness (Deuteronomy
29: 11). Sometime during the 40-year sojourn, a man with
a Jewish mother and an Egyptian father spoke evil of God
and was stoned (Leviticus 24: 10–16). 17
Moses married a Midianite woman (Exodus 2: 16–22;
4: 24–26). Moses sent her and their two sons back to Midian
while he was in Egypt. They were re-united, however, and
Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, became a trusted advisor to
Moses. Jethro also displayed faith in God, sacrificed to God,
and was accepted among the elders as they ate ‘before God’.
He then left to return to Midian (Exodus 18). The boys
were counted among the Levites and held leadership roles
(two of the grandsons were called ‘chiefs’). Eliezer had but
one son, but Gershom had many ( 1 Chronicles 23: 14–17).
Later, Jethro is called ‘the Kenite’ and his descendants
lived among the Israelites from the time of the conquest of
Jericho (Judges 1: 16, and see the account of Jael below).
Centuries later, Saul sent them out of the way before he
fought the Amelekites ( 1 Samuel 15: 6).
During the Exodus, in a much-disputed passage, Miriam
and Aaron complain about Moses’ wife, who is twice called
a Cushite (Numbers 12: 1). 18 The simplest, though not
necessarily defendable, explanation is that Moses was not
yet reunited with his Midianite wife and sons, but that he
had a second wife who was also not an Israelite.
Another example of a non-Jewish person in Israel might
be Caleb, one of the 12 ‘spies’ (Numbers 13: 30). Caleb
is called a Kennizite (Numbers 32: 12) and the son of a
Kennizite, Jephunneh (Joshua 14: 6). The Kennizites were
a Canaanite tribe (Genesis 15: 19), which has raised the
suspicion that Caleb was not a full-blooded Israelite. But
perhaps Kenaz is simply a family name. Not only is Caleb’s
father called a Kennizite, Kenaz is also the name of Caleb’s
younger brother (Joshua 15: 17; Judges 3: 9), as well as
one of Caleb’s grandsons ( 1 Chronicles 4: 15). Of course
this could all just be useless speculation, and Caleb son of
Hezron, son of Perez, son of Judah ( 1 Chronicles 2) and
Caleb son of Jephunneh could be the same person. This is a
mystery that cannot be answered here, but at least some of
the evidence points to Caleb being half Kennizite. I include
the argument only for the sake of completion.
Laws against intermarriage with foreigners are
surprisingly few in the Bible. Deuteronomy 7: 3 excludes
Canaanites (Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites,
Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, 7: 1) because they
would turn away their hearts from following God (7: 4).
Deuteronomy 23: 4–8 excludes Ammonites and Moabites
from entering the assembly of the Lord to the 10th
generation. 19 But it allows for Edomites and Egyptians
to enter the assembly in the 3rd generation. There is also
a law for marrying foreign women taken captive during
warfare (Deuteronomy 21: 10–14; but see 1 Samuel 15: 3),
although this does not include the Canaanite nations and
was restricted to maidens (Deuteronomy 20: 15–17).
Joshua through to the Judges
When the Israelites entered the Promised Land (figure 3),
we know they did not keep themselves separated from the
Canaanite nations. Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute from
Jericho, is famously in the lineage of Christ (Matthew 1: 5),
and even though they put her and her family “outside the
camp” (Joshua 6: 23), Rahab is said to have “lived in Israel
to this day” (Joshua 6: 25). Since she lived with the Israelites,
even marrying one, there is a possibility that her family was
also incorporated into the community.
Very early in the conquest of the Promised Land,
the Israelites were duped by the Gibeonites (also called
‘Hivites’, in Joshua 9: 7, and ‘Amorites’, in 2 Samuel 21: 2). 20
The Israelites could not break the treaty they had made, so
they allowed them to live in the land as servants (Joshua 9).
This pattern of failed conquest repeats multiple times (Joshua
13: 13; Judges 1: 27–36). Once they started worshipping the
Baals (Joshua 2: 11), what would have prevented them from
further rejecting God by marrying with the locals? After
all, people as zealous as Phinehas (Numbers 25) are rare,