The Old Testament law forbade the children of Israel to marry the inhabitants of Canaan land (Exodus 34:14-16). God told the Israelites to destroy the inhabitants and not to intermarry with them. God gave the reason for this instruction, and it had nothing to do with ethnicity or color of skin. “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them…. For they will turn away thy son from following
me, that they may serve other gods” (Deuteronomy 7:1-4). God wanted His people to be holy and separate, exclusively worshipping Him.
When the Israelites began to intermarry with other nations and races in disobedience to God, they were influenced by idolatry and pagan worship. The prophets cried out against this practice
(Malachi 2:11; Ezra 9:1-2). Because they mingled with the people of the land, their hearts were turned away from God. King Solomon is a sad example of this. “But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites…the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods…. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods” (1 Kings 11:1-5).
The commandment forbidding marriage between the Israelites and foreigners had nothing to do with race in and of itself but had everything to do with idolatrous influence. The New Testament teaches a very similar principle concerning marriage. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). Marriage is the closest yoke of all human relationships, and the New Testament teaches that a believer should not marry an unbeliever; it is not an issue of ethnicity or the color of one’s skin.
Moses married a Midianite and later married an Ethiopian. Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses and his marriage. God became angry with them, not with Moses, and Miriam became leprous (Numbers 12:1, 9-10). Their protest had more to do with their power and influence than with the marriage itself. Bible commentator Albert Barnes wrote the following:
The marriage of Moses with a woman descended from Ham was not prohibited, so long as she was not of the stock of Canaan; but it would at any time have been offensive to that intense nationality which characterized the Jews. The Christian fathers note in the successive marriage of Moses with a Midianite and an Ethiopian a foreshadowing of the future extension to the Gentiles of God’s covenant and its promises.
In the New Testament, while there are still different ethnicities, “There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” (Romans 10:12). Ruth and Rahab are included in the lineage of Christ. Truly, God hath made of “one blood all nations” (Acts 17:26). The New Testament does not forbid interracial marriage.
Marriage is a very serious thing and there are many practical considerations. Marriage should be entered into with much prayer and counsel. Faith in Christ, not ethnicity or skin color, is the Biblical standard for choosing a spouse. However, issues of ethnicity, tradition, culture, caste, tribe, socioeconomic background, etc. should be prayerfully considered within one’s cultural context. Relationships with family, pressures from society, and the acceptance of future children should be considered. In some cultures, there are significant problems that would be caused by interracial marriage that would make the marriage very difficult. These considerations are not issues of sin but of wisdom and compatibility; they will vary from place to place and from situation to situation. ■