Endogamy: marriage within a specific group as required by custom or law.

What was particularly amusing, when I doublechecked on Merriam-Webster to ensure I had the right word, was that several of the comments in the “Seen and Heard” portion, where you’re supposed to say why you looked this up, involved references from the Bible.

Basically, in anthropology, there are two trends at work in how people get married. There’s exogamy, where you have to marry outside of a certain group, and endogamy, where you have to marry inside a certain group. Incest taboos are the most widespread form of exogamy, and some cultures go even farther than blood relatives, demanding that people marry from other clans or from people with a different last name (the latter is from China). Endogamy can be found in castes in India or anti-miscegenation laws in America’s recent history. Marry your own kind, don’t mix the blood, that sort of thing.

That’s not entirely why Zelophehad’s daughters are being required to marry members of their own tribe here, setting a standard for later generations to follow. The concern here isn’t racial or caste-based, it’s purely economic. The fear is that, by marriage, some tribes will be able to acquire more land and wealth than others. To keep things equitable, inheritance must remain within their initial, traditional allotment, and so any women who stand to inherit may “marry whom they think best; only it must be into a clan of their father’s tribe that they are married” (v 6).

It’s certainly true that marrying an heiress to gain her fortune has been used by many people in both the past and the present to improve their own station. That’s pretty much the plot of Downton Abbey, and I recently saw a lovely smackdown of senators who belittle the poor while having made their own fortunes by marrying a rich man’s daughter.

But you can easily see some flaws in this plan to keep things equitable. Namely, population levels don’t stay constant. What if a plague comes and wipes out a portion of one tribe? What if one tribe has a larger number of children and begins to grow? What if ten of your tribes are conquered and relocated to a different country? How do you keep the population constant to when they were equitably balanced at the beginning of the occupation?

Maybe there are answers to these questions later on. As always, I’ll keep an eye out for them.

Meanwhile, this is the end of Numbers and by 150th post on a chapter (as opposed to a status post). I was hoping that by now I’d have been on King David, but now I don’t think that will be until next spring. My new estimate, assuming I don’t have another hospitalization or move to a new continent, is that I will finish this in 2017 when I’m 33, which is daunting. I don’t know what my life will look like by then. It’s certainly changed a lot in the year or so I’ve been doing the project so far.

The Japanese: susumideru “to step up, to step forward,” uttaeru “to call on, to speak to, to complain” (v 1), shinzoku “relative, family” (v 2), totsugu “to marry into” (v 3), otozureru “to come (time, season)” (v 4), utsuru “to move to, to transfer” (v 7).

Advertisements