Let’s begin by considering the heritage of Mary and Elisabeth. In Matthew 1, we have the genealogy of the Lord Jesus. In Luke 3, we have another genealogy of the Lord Jesus. Why were there two genealogies? Most Bible teachers believe that Matthew’s genealogy is that of Joseph, and Luke’s genealogy is that of Mary. Both show that Christ was born of the tribe of Judah, for both Joseph and Mary were of the tribe of Judah. (Read Matthew 1:6 and Luke 3:31.) Besides that, we read in Revelation 5:5 that Christ is called “the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David”.

Elisabeth’s tribal affiliation is also given to us in Luke 1:5, “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.” Aaron, the brother of Moses, was the first High Priest and was a descendent of Levi.

Judah was the kingly tribe and Levi was the priestly tribe. We read in Numbers 36:6, “This is the thing which the LORD doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Let them marry to whom they think best; ONLY TO THE FAMILY OF THE TRIBE OF THEIR FATHER SHALL THEY MARRY.” In Luke 1:36 the angel of the Lord says to Mary, “And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age…” Mary and Elisabeth were cousins, but belonged to two different tribes. How could this be? There are a couple of explanations as to how these two ladies could be cousins, yet be of differing tribes.

The word ‘cousin’ in Luke 1:26 is pretty ambiguous. The Greek word here for cousin is ‘suggenes’ and is defined as: “a relative (by blood); by extension, a fellow countryman:—cousin, kin(-sfolk, -sman).” In fact this word is translated as ‘kin’ in Mark 6:4 as ‘kinsman’ in Luke 14:12, and as ‘kinsfolk’ in Luke 2:44. Paul uses this same word to say in Romans 9:3, “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, MY KINSMEN according to the flesh.” Here, the word ‘suggenes’ is used to represent the entire nation of Israel. The only time this word is translated as ‘cousin’ is in Luke 1:26 and in Luke 1:58 which says, “And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.” So, it is possible that Mary and Elisabeth were not ‘first cousins’, but may have been distant relatives, even very distant relatives.

Marrying outside of one’s tribe was not always strictly forbidden. We go on to read in Numbers 36:7-8, “SO SHALL NOT THE INHERITANCE OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL REMOVE FROM TRIBE TO TRIBE: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. And every daughter, that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may enjoy every man the inheritance of his fathers.” Marrying inside one’s particular tribe prevented any loss of inheritance (land) to a differing tribe. However, the tribe of the Levites had no inheritance. Numbers 18:23 tells us, “But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that AMONG THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL THEY HAVE NO INHERITANCE.” If someone of a different tribe married a Levite, there would be no removal of the inheritance.

These two examples both have credibility and could account for the differing tribes of Mary and Elisabeth. (307.6)