(Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version).
Some Christians, based on some Old Testament commandments that forbade the Jews from intermarrying with other races, still believe the various races should not co-mingle in marriage. Thus, such people frown at interracial marriages, seeing them as a violation of Scripture. What does the New Testament teach about interracial marriages? Are the marital restrictions of God’s people in the Old Testament still applicable to saints in the New Testament? This article seeks to answer these questions through a careful examination of the Scripture.
Let’s start by reviewing the marital restrictions among God’s people in the Old Testament, and the reasons behind such divine prohibitions. From the time of Abraham, we notice a specific concern among God’s people about marrying outside the clan. Abraham married his half-sister Sarah (it wasn’t until the time of Moses that God forbade marriages between siblings and half–siblings), and when it was time for his son Isaac to marry, Abraham, now far away from his home country and forbidden by God to return back there, gave specific instructions to his servant to go back among his people to get a wife for his son. Isaac was devastated when his firstborn Esau decided to marry among the Canaanites, rather than go back to choose a wife from among his parents’ people. For this reason, Isaac had to send his second son, Jacob, away to his mother’s people, in order to get a wife from among them. The patriarchs’ reason for avoiding marriages outside of their clan was to avoid co-mingling with pagans who could lead them astray from the worship of the one, true God, Yahweh. The Mosaic Covenant codified this marital restriction among the Jews, and offered stern warning against marrying outside of the tribes of Israel, who alone had the correct revelation of the true God. Again, the danger of being spiritually derailed by idol worshipers was the main reason God forbade the Jews from marrying non-Jews.
From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister. And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife. Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, Lord, will you kill an innocent people? Did he not himself say to me, She is my sister? And she herself said, He is my brother. In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this. Then God said to him in the dream, Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you, and all who are yours. So Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid. Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done. And Abimelech said to Abraham, What did you see, that you did this thing? Abraham said, I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. And when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, He is my brother.
Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things. And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you 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. The servant said to him, Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came? Abraham said to him, See to it that you do not take my son back there. The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, To your offspring I will give this land, he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there. So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter.
And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: Which were a grief of mind to Isaac and to Rebekah (AKJV).
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. God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham! Thus Isaac sent Jacob away. And he went to Paddan-aram, to Laban, the son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother. 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.
When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves, and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
1 Kings 11:1-10
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods. Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods. And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the LORD commanded.
Now that the old Mosaic covenant has been abolished, and the middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles has been broken down by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, are racial discriminations in marriage still necessary for God’s people? What we need to remember is that, the knowledge of the true God was limited to only one race (the Jews) in time past, hence it was necessary for God to restrict marriages of his people to their fellow tribesmen, to avoid contamination of the race and the knowledge of God they were carrying. But now that God’s people can be found in every race and tongue and tribe on earth, marital restrictions based on race are no longer valid for God’s people. What matters more now is compatibility of faith, and no longer that of race or tribe. There is a new race of God’s people now, but it’s based on the commonality of faith in Christ Jesus. Believers in Christ, from every colour and tongue and tribe, belong to a new brotherhood—a heavenly race, a holy nation and a royal priesthood. In Christ Jesus, we’re one in spirit now, irrespective of our various ethnic backgrounds.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
As stated above, the initial restriction of marriages within the race of God’s people was to prevent spiritual contamination of the chosen race, through union with heathens. The Jewish race then was the only holy race. It alone had the knowledge of the true God and of his laws. So, the initial prohibition of interracial marriages was for spiritual reasons, rather than just the prevention of the mixing of bloodlines. Now that the holy race encompasses all Christians of all ethnic backgrounds, Christians are only forbidden to marry outside of the Christian brotherhood, for the same reasons that the Israelites were forbidden from marrying non-Israelites. Christians are admonished to refrain from being unequally yoked together with unbelievers, especially in marriage, for light and darkness have really no common ground for fellowship, as the marriage of a Christian to a non-Christian is likened to light being joined to darkness. That’s what the Bible says!
1 Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.
1 Corinthians 7:39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.
Despite all Christians being one in Christ and heirs together with him of the promise of God, some in the Christian fold still discriminate with respect to earthly tribes and ethnicity, and will not marry a fellow Christian from another race. I’ve come across some Christian denominations that forbid interracial marriages among Christians, claiming God is against racial admixture. What this group of misguided believers don’t understand is that, all men and women came from one blood, from one man—Adam. They also are ignorant of the fact that God’s original purpose of segregating between Jews and Gentiles was to preserve the purity of the oracles of God committed to the Jews. Furthermore, Gentiles who abandoned their idolatry and embraced the one true God of Israel were allowed to mingle freely with the Jews, even in marriage. That’s how Ruth, the Moabite woman who renounced her people and her god to accept the God of Israel, got married to a prince from the tribe of Judah, and ended up being a progenitor of the Lord Jesus Christ, for she was the great grand-mother of King David, from whom Christ descended. These racist Christians also forget the scripture that teaches that in Christ, there’s no segregation between Greeks and Jews anymore, and therefore racial discrimination should never be entertained in the church. Christians can marry fellow Christians from other earthly races. What matters now, and even back then under the law, is marrying someone of your own spiritual breed, as spiritual compatibility overrides all other carnal considerations in marriage. So, to forbid a Christian from marrying another Christian, because they belong to different earthly races, is unbiblical and a denigration of the blood of Jesus Christ that has equalized all men and women of all tribes and races who believe in him. Discriminating against other Christians from other races is the highest form of racism, and a shame for men who have been recreated in the complete image of God. Racial discrimination among people who have been sanctified by the blood of Jesus Christ, and have been filled by his Spirit, is the most satanic form of racism, for who else should appreciate the equality of all people before God better than a Christian? For a Christian to join the world of ungodly and spiritually unenlightened men to hold unto the racial enmity that has been abolished by Christ is allowing our light to be extinguished by darkness, and our salt to lose its savour. Christians in such a state are no longer good for anything other than to be trampled underfoot by men! Such people are simply enemies of the cross of Christ! That’s what the Bible says!
The Acts 17:24-28
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for In him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your own poets have said, For we are indeed his offspring.
But Ruth said, 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. And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more. So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, Is this Naomi? She said to them, Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me? So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him. Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, A son has been born to Naomi. They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, The LORD will surely separate me from his people; and let not the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus says the LORD: To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
In conclusion, the initial segregation between Jews and Gentiles, including the forbidding of marriages between them, was essentially spiritual in purpose, and was designed to preserve the purity of the faith and of the knowledge of God committed to the Jews. Marriages with heathens would contaminate Israel spiritually and lure them into idolatry. To protect them against that, God forbade them from marrying non-Jews. However, Jews could and did marry Gentiles who converted to the Jewish religion and abandoned their gods to serve Yahweh, the only true God, who was Israel’s God. That’s how Ruth, a Moabite, converted to Judaism, got married to Boaz, and ended up as Christ’s ancestor. In the New Testament, God’s people have expanded to include both Jews and Gentiles who are born again, so there’s no more racial discrimination in Christ, for all are one in him, irrespective of tribe, gender or social standing. The holy race now is the entire body of Christ (believers of all colours, ethnicity and tribes), and Christians are now restricted to marry from the faith only, to avoid being derailed spiritually. Yet, some Christians still would not marry other Christians from different races. This racism in the church is the most satanic version of racial discrimination, as it undermines the work of Christ on Calvary in breaking down the middle wall of partition among all classes and races of men, uniting them by the Spirit of God. Christians are a heavenly race of people and should never discriminate against other Christians from other racial backgrounds in marriage, for that is ungodly and satanic. A Christian can marry from any tribe and race, as long as the person is a fellow Christian, for that’s what matters now!
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