Q: Doesn’t the Bible speak against marriages between the races? Although the practice of maritally mixing the races is common in our culture, shouldn’t Christians avoid doing so?
A: In the Old Testament God prohibited His people (those descended from the blood of Abraham, the Jews) from intermarrying with the people from the heathen land of Canaan. God instructed Moses to tell the people of Israel: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations-the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites . . . Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughter to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. . .” (Deuteronomy 7:1, 3).
What was the reason for this strong racial and cultural division? The reading in Deuteronomy goes on to explain, “. . . for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods. . .” (v. 4). When Israel disobeyed this word of warning, evil consequences came upon the nation of Israel, just as Joshua had foretold: “. . . they will become snares and traps for you. . .” (Joshua 23:13), King Solomon was the most notable transgressor of this prohibition, taking for himself many foreign wives. Scripture sadly reports that “as Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God” (1 Kings 11:4). At the time of Ezra, the people of Israel–even the priests–had so violated the Lord’s injunction against interracial marriage, that upon hearing of the widespread practice, Ezra tore his clothes and pulled out his hair as a sign of his distress over their sin. Then he instituted large scale reforms to separate the Israelites from the pagans in the land (Ezra 9).
When God forbade such racial intermarriage, He was not concerned with “pure” racial lines but with keeping pure and unchanged the religious doctrine and practice of God’s Old Testament people. God chose Israel to be a “separate nation” not because of any superior racial blood lines, but solely for the purpose of preserving the true worship in the land where God had promised that the Messiah-Savior would one day be born. This Savior would be the descendant of Abraham through whom all the nations on the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). Jesus’ own blood line (listed in Matthew 1) contained non-Israelites like Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth, women who came to believe in God’s promise of the Savior.
Does this Old Testament restriction on marriage between races or nationalities apply to Christians today? No. The whole Mosaic Law system was to serve only until the time of Christ (Galatians 3:24, 25; Colossians 2:16, 17). Martin Luther wrote: “I have stated that all Christians, should take heed and learn Moses aright. Thus where he gives commandment we are not to follow him except so far as he agrees with the natural law” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 35).
In the textbook we use for Pastoral Theology in our seminary, we find this appropriate comment: “That a difference in race or color between the bride and groom is an impediment to marriage cannot be established from Scripture. Nevertheless, the specific problems that an interracial marriage presents in a particular society, country or family will need to be faced and should become the subject for premarital counseling by the pastor” (Shepherd Under Christ, p. 271). It should go without saying that Christians ought to give far weightier consideration to religious differences than to the particular color of skin when seeking a marriage partner. Many interracial marriages have opened new doors for the spread of Christ’s Gospel through their extended families.