In contrast to the book of Ezra, whose protagonists demand that Jews expel "foreign" wives, the story of the Midianite Zipporah, Moses' wife, affirms that foreign women are beneficial to Israel. Zipporah's circumcision of her son in Exodus 4 is the climax of a pattern in which females thwart attacks on endangered males. Later, Zipporah's father confessed faith in Moses' God and ate a meal with Israel in the presence of God. Zipporah and her father represent a household that originated outside of Israel's ideological boundaries, but became positively allied to Israel through marriage, circumcision, confession, and sacrifice. This and similar stories suggest that, among those who selected and shaped the narratives of the Tanakh, there was considerable and persuasive dissent from what has often been assumed to be the dominant position in Second Temple Judaism.
 Recently several scholars have applied modern theories of ethnicity to post-exilic Jewish history, connecting the formation of the Jewish Scriptures to the identity crises brought by exile and resettlement in the Babylonian and Persian periods. Some emphasize the concern exhibited in these texts with Israel's religious identity and the distinctions between Israel and other peoples. (1) Others seek to link certain biblical narratives to the economic and property issues resulting from exile resettlement and Persian policies and politics. (2) I am interested in the relevance of wife-taking traditions throughout the Hebrew Bible to the social tensions over identity formation and ethnicity construction among the Jews who processed these traditions and produced a set of scriptures. I maintain that diverse wife-taking stories found across the range of Torah, Prophets, and Writings are best explained, not by positing stages in the development of marriage customs over the range of Israel's history, but rather as representative of distinct perspectives on exogamy among the scribes who redacted them. (3) I am arguing that narratives and law codes in the Pentateuch reflect contrasting perspectives on exogamy that may be explained, at least in part, by the conflicts over suitable marriage alliances among the inhabitants of Persian Yehud. (4)
 Some Torah narratives imply that to marry within certain defined groups is to preserve the community's religious vitality and ethnic identity--defined as mutually informing. Other texts, in contrast, demonstrate that sentiments and prohibitions against "foreigners" must be set aside because the new Israel is a religious community. These texts affirm that outsiders contributed to the establishment of Israel. The conspicuous presence of tensions concerning the provenance and ethnicity of wives for Israelite men in the Bible and subsequent Jewish literature signifies the continuing importance of this issue for the authors and their communities. (5)
 The Exodus account of Moses' Midianite wife illustrates how this and similar traditions about outsider wives were useful against those who claimed that only golah (exiled) Jews--male and female--and their offspring were Israel, the holy seed. The protagonists in the book of Ezra (Shecaniah and Ezra) contended that unions of male golah Jews with women originating inside the land produced mixed, polluted offspring who must be expelled from the golah congregation, sent outside of the boundaries the authors of Ezra constructed around Israel. However, the stories of Zipporah--and other outsider wives or mothers such as Tamar, Asenath, the Cushite, and Ruth--indicate otherwise. These narratives show that foreign wives were essential to the formation, preservation, and deliverance of the people, Israel. I will begin by outlining briefly some of the most apparent tensions in the Torah narratives, then move to the story of Moses' wife, Zipporah.
The Tensions …