We live in a world with a great diversity of people – many races, many languages, many cultures. It’s a wonderful reflection of God’s creative work. Today’s question has to do with those races that God has created and how God wants us to interact in those races. Today’s question is, “What does the Bible say about interracial marriage?”
Before we answer the question, let’s talk about this word “race.” For starters, the Bible says very clearly that there are not multiple races and that all of us are of one race. We have all descended from Adam and Eve. Furthermore, we have all descended from Noah. While we have a diversity of races and cultures now, we all have a common ancestor, and we are all one race. There is just the human race.
On the other hand, if we are defining “races” by the diversity of cultures, we can very easily say that there is no such thing as a marriage that is not interracial because there are no pure races. After thousands of years, we are the conglomeration of many races as individuals. Perhaps some of us are more diverse than others, but no two people have exactly the same racial makeup. Therefore every marriage is, to some degree, an interracial marriage.
I understand the question has more to do with the visible differences in races and cultures that we see here in the 21st century. What does the Bible say about those type marriages? The Bible does not condemn (and in some cases celebrates!) interracial marriage. Let’s look at the specific verses where people would argue for and against interracial marriage from Scripture.
The Israelites are commanded in Deuteronomy 7:3-4 not to marry outside of their race. The Hebrew people are clearly commanded: if you are a Hebrew individual you are to marry another Hebrew individual. But the point not racial. It is spiritual. Deuteronomy 7:3-4 says, “You must not intermarry with them, and you must not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, because they will turn your sons away from me to worship other gods. Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will swiftly destroy you.”
The reason for this commandment in Deuteronomy is not because God is against the mingling of races from a cultural point of view. He’s against the mingling of races from a spiritual point of view. There is a warning that if the people of Israel marry outside of the Israelite race, they will be marrying into cultures that worship false idols and false gods. The people of Israel will be led astray.
In Malachi 2:11 we see this wandering occur. It says, “Judah has acted treacherously, and a detestable act has been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the Lord’s sanctuary, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.” The issue was not that he married someone of a different race but that he married someone who worshipped false gods.
The New Testament continues this theme. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 Paul writes, “Don’t become partners with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?” Christians cannot co-marry & intermingle with those who are non-believers. They will be led astray.
God certainly does not condemn interracial marriage. We see several places that God condones and endorses specific interracial marriages, even in the Old Testament. Perhaps the best example of this is in Numbers 12. We are told that Moses’s siblings have a major issue with his wife, who is a Cushite. They mock and ridicule Moses, condemning him for marrying this woman from another nation.
It helps if we understand who the Cushites are. The word “Cush” literally means “black.” As far as we can tell, the Cushites were from the nation that is now Ethiopia. There is little doubt that Moses was married to a black woman. In Numbers 12, both his sister and brother ridiculed him for marrying this Cushite woman. God then gives Moses’s sister leprosy as punishment for her condemning the marriage that God has blessed. We see very clearly that God is defending this interracial marriage between Moses and his wife the Cushite.
God also celebrates marriages from people outside of the Israelite nation in Ruth. This book tells us the beautiful story of a Moabite woman who is married to an Israelite. Her faithfulness to her family and ultimately to God is highlighted throughout Ruth. She eventually becomes a descendant of Jesus Christ Himself.
I really like the way Ken Ham describes and answers this question. When he talks about interracial marriage, he makes it very clear that the Bible strictly forbids interracial marriage. But then he clarifies his belief. Scripture only gives us two races: those who are in the family of God and those who are not in the family of God. In the sense of those two races – those who are believers and those who are unbelievers – God strictly forbids intermarriage.
So, what does the Bible say about interracial marriage? As far as the physical cultural differences of race, the Bible not only refuses to condemn it, but it condones and celebrates interracial marriage.
A few suggested readings would be Numbers 12, where you can see the story of Moses and his siblings as they discuss his Cushite wife. You can also read the entire book of Ruth for a beautiful picture of a non-Israelite woman who is married into the Israelite family and is celebrated, eventually becoming a key figure in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.