I recently read an article about a small Free Will Baptist Church, nestled in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, that voted to bar interracial couples from membership in the church. I live in rural Appalachia myself, and it is not an uncommon viewpoint (at least among older folks) that interracial marriage is “wrong” and even “anti-Biblical.” From a classical Christian point of view, the highest authority on morality and doctrine is the Bible. For interracial marriage to be considered immoral from the Christian point of view, the Bible must say so. But does it?
Racial separatists do have some proof-texts for their view. They cite first of all the Patriarchs, who believed in marrying only among their own kindred:
Genesis 24:3-4 ESV
“…swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”
Genesis 26:34-35 ESV
When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.
Genesis 27:46 ESV
Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?”
Genesis 28:1-2, 6-9 ESV
Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women. Arise, go to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father, and take as your wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother…. Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women,” and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram. So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth.
After reading these passages, my question to the racial separatists is, “Where is God in these verses?” One does not find any mention of the Lord in these passages, let alone God commanding the Patriarchs to only marry among their own kindred. What I do see is humans making human statements according to their human culture.
Should we take 4,000 year old middle-eastern cultural norms as a standard of living? Don’t forget, while these people took issue with marrying outside their kindred, they did not seem to have any problem with polygamy or keeping concubines (sex slaves). This is nothing more than culturally institutionalized racism. The people who held these attitudes may have been servants of God, but this by no means made them perfect. The fact that they worshipped Yahweh does not sanctify their racism.
The other primary source of racial separatist proof-texts is drawn from the accounts of the Israelite exodus from slavery in Egypt to the promised land. Here is one example:
Numbers 25:6-13 ESV
And behold, one of the people of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the people of Israel, while they were weeping in the entrance of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped. Nevertheless, those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand. And the Lord said to Moses, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.'”
This passage seems like a sure-fire proof-test in support of racial separatism. Apparently in the midst of a plague, the Israelites stood weeping before God, crying out for His mercy. In the sight of all the people, one of the Israelites appeared with his foreign wife. A zealous priest named Phinehas grabbed a spear and killed them both. The plague was stopped, and God promised to appoint Phinehas and his descendendants perpetual priests over Israel.
Here is the problem: this passage is taken out of context. When you read the surrounding verses of this passage, you see that the real issue was Baal worship.
Numbers 25:1-5 ESV
While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. And the Lord said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them in the sun before the Lord, that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.” And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.”
While it cannot be ignored that intermarriage between the Israelites and Moabites helped create the problem, the problem had nothing to do with race, but religion. The Israelites began worshipping Baal because of their foreign wives. However, the problem was not intermarriage, but idolatry. This becomes even more clear when this passage is compared to other passages of the Bible.
One great example is Ruth. Ruth was an ethnic Moabite, but married an Israelite named Boaz. Their descendents included King David, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. No one was critical of the marriage because Ruth abandoned the customs and religion of Moab and embraced the faith and customs of Israel. She told her mother-in-law, Naomi,
Ruth 1:16-17 ESV
…”Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
The issue of intermarriage was always about religion, not race. Otherwise, an earthly Israelite king (let alone the Messiah of all mankind) would be unacceptable. Jesus was of mixed ethnic heritage!
If interracial marriage actually is wrong, we should reject a half-breed Savior.
The truth is that the nation of Israel was never strictly an ethnic group. It was a multi-ethnic community united by common faith and customs.
Exodus 12:37-38 ESV (emphasis mine)
And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds.
In fact, Moses married a woman from Cush (present-day Ethiopia). The man of God, who led His people out of Egypt, was married to a dark-skinned foreigner. His own family criticized him for it. God took Moses’s side. Read about it for yourself:
Numbers 12:1-15 ESV
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. And the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed. When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her—please.” But the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” So Miriam was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again.
Let’s review the facts:
1. Moses married an Ethiopian.
2. God did not condemn Moses.
3. Aaron and Miriam criticized Moses for marrying a foreigner.
4. The Lord overheard them, and rebuked Aaron and Miriam.
5. God struck Miriam with leprosy.
6. Moses interceded for Miriam, and the Lord healed her, but she had to spend a week outside the camp in accordance with God’s command.
God obviously did not have a problem with the ethnicity of Moses’s wife.
The truth is, although God has created many ethnic groups, there is only one race–the human race. There is no place in the Bible that records that God ever commanded ethnic purity. In fact, the Bible says, he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth (Acts 17:26, ESV). It also says, Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all (Colossians 3:11, ESV). In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, John saw a vision of a multi-ethnic Church:
Revelation 7:9-10 ESV
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
The doctrine that interracial marriage is immoral is not Biblical. All true doctrine comes from God’s Word. Anyone who thinks that interracial marriage is immoral needs to repent. Do not forget how the Lord treated Miriam.
The latest news is that Gulnare FWBC has recanted.