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Question:

"I was wondering what your viewpoints are on interracial dating/marriage. I have heard some people claim that Scripture is strongly against it."

Answer:

Personally, I don't see anything in the Bible against interracial marriage between Christians.

Here are some things that the Old Testament says about interracial marriage:
"But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the LORD your God has given you." (Joshua 23:12-13)

"The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods. The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs." (Judges 3:5-7)

"After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, "The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness." When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled." (Ezra 9:1-3)

""But now, O our God, what can we say after this? For we have disregarded the commands you gave through your servants the prophets when you said: 'The land you are entering to possess is a land polluted by the corruption of its peoples. By their detestable practices they have filled it with their impurity from one end to the other. Therefore, do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them at any time, that you may be strong and eat the good things of the land and leave it to your children as an everlasting inheritance.'" (Ezra 9:10-12)

"Shall we again break your commands and intermarry with the peoples who commit such detestable practices? Would you not be angry enough with us to destroy us, leaving us no remnant or survivor?" (Ezra 9:14)

"Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, "We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us."" (Ezra 10:2)

"The rest of the people--priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand--all these now join their brothers the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the LORD our Lord. "We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons."" (Nehemiah 10:28-30)
Some people believe that God wanted the Israelites to maintain their "racial purity," and therefore they say that the Bible forbids interracial marriages. However, consider that if racial purity were the issue then the Israelites could have made treaties of friendship with other nations and still kept their racial purity by not marrying foreign women. But racial purity was never the issue. Notice that God did not just forbid the Israelites from marrying foreign women, but He also told them not to seek treaties of friendship with other nations or to even associate with other nations (Ezra 9:10-12 and Joshua 23:12-13, above). There's something other than racial purity going on here. There was one specific reason why God commanded them not to intermarry with those nations, and we can see a hint of that reason in Judges 3:5-7 (above), which says that the Israelites intermarried with other nations and then began serving foreign gods.

Now let's look at the specific reason why God commanded the Israelites not to intermarry with those other nations:
"Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you." (Deuteronomy 7:3-4)

"King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh's daughter--Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, "You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods." Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love." (1 Kings 11:1-2)
God commanded the Israelites not to intermarry with foreign nations because He knew that the Israelites would turn away from Him and begin serving foreign gods, which is exactly what happened.

As we're starting to see, maintaining racial purity was never the issue. In fact, Bible scholars point out that the surrounding peoples were of the same race as the Israelites:
"The Jewish leaders reported to Ezra that some Israelites had been involved with their pagan neighbors' detestable practices (cf. Ezra 9:11, 14) which meant they had married Gentiles. One of God's major prohibitions was that His people were not to marry outside the community of believers (Ex. 34:11-16; Deut 7:1-4). This was not because of racial difference, for the peoples of the surrounding areas were of the same Semitic race. The reason was strictly religious. If God's people married outside Israel they would be tempted (as was Solomon; 1 Kings 11:3-5) to get caught up in pagan idolatrous worship." (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Walvoord and Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary, p.669, emphasis added)
So the peoples of the surrounding areas were of the same race as the Israelites, and therefore the Israelites could have intermarried with them and still maintained the purity of the race. Yet God commanded the Israelites not to intermarry with them. Again, racial purity was never the issue.

In fact, notice that it was perfectly acceptable for Gentiles (everyone who was not a Jew) to convert to Judaism and join the Israelite community:
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are." (Matthew 23:15)

"Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs--we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" (Acts 2:10-11)

"This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism." (Acts 6:5)

"When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God." (Acts 13:43)

"An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the Lord's Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you." (Exodus 12:48-49)
These passages show that Gentiles (non-Israelites) were allowed to convert to Judaism and be treated "like one born in the land" (Exodus 12:48-49, above). This would not make sense if God wanted the Israelites to maintain their "racial purity," but again, racial purity was never the reason for God's commands against intermarriage with non-Israelites.

In a moment we will look at two examples of Gentile women who converted to Judaism and then married Israelite men, and we'll see that these marriages were perfectly acceptable. But first, notice that peoples' genealogies were very important in Biblical times, especially for the priests:
"The following came up from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon and Immer, but they could not show that their families were descended from Israel: The descendants of Delaiah, Tobiah and Nekoda 652 And from among the priests: The descendants of Hobaiah, Hakkoz and Barzillai (a man who had married a daughter of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by that name). These searched for their family records, but they could not find them and so were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. The governor ordered them not to eat any of the most sacred food until there was a priest ministering with the Urim and Thummim." (Ezra 2:59-63)
After the Captivity in Babylon, many Jews returned to the area of Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-2:70). The people listed in the passage above could not prove their lineage, and therefore they were excluded from the priesthood. A person's genealogy was important back then, which is why there are numerous genealogies throughout the Bible. Since the genealogy of humans was important (especially for the priests), and since Jesus is our "high priest forever" (Hebrews 6:20), then imagine how important Jesus' genealogy must be! Certainly there would be no "uncleanness" in Jesus' human ancestry, right? We'll come back to this in just a moment.

Now let's look at a couple of Gentile women who married Israelite men. One of these women is Rahab, who lived in Jericho when the Israelites were about to destroy it. Rahab helped the Israelite spies (Joshua 2:1-21), and she and her family were accepted into the Israelite community after Jericho was destroyed. The other Gentile woman that we're going to look at is Ruth, who was a Moabitess. She put her trust in the God of the Israelites (she "sought refuge under the wings of God" - Ruth 2:11-12), and then she married an Israelite man named Boaz:
"But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho-- and she lives among the Israelites to this day." (Joshua 6:25)

"In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?" (James 2:25)

"Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, "Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon's widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!" Then the elders and all those at the gate said, "We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah." So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: "Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth." Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, "Naomi has a son." And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David." (Ruth 4:9-17)
Rahab and Ruth were both Gentiles, yet they married Israelite men after converting to Judaism. If maintaining the racial purity of the Israelites was an issue, then it would have been wrong for those Israelite men to marry Rahab and Ruth. We certainly wouldn't expect to find such "sinful" marriages in Jesus' human ancestry, because then His "racial purity" would have been compromised (according to those who do not believe in interracial marriage). But racial purity was never the issue. Notice that these Gentile women (Rahab and Ruth) are both in Jesus' royal lineage:
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. ... And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David." (Ruth 4:9-17)

"Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife," (Matthew 1:5-6)
Jesus is "the Son of David" (see Matthew 1:1), which means that He is descended from King David, and therefore these two Gentile women (Rahab and Ruth) are direct ancestors of Jesus Christ. People who believe that the Bible forbids interracial marriage often say that the New Testament gives us Jesus' genealogy in order to prove the racial purity of His human lineage, yet Jesus' lineage includes Gentiles. This further demonstrates that "racial purity" was never the reason for God's commands against intermarrying with Gentile nations. The reason was strictly religious, not racial.

Now notice that every person who ever lived is descended from a pair of common ancestors:
"Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living." (Genesis 3:20)

"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live." (Acts 17:24-26)
Every person who ever lived is descended from Adam and Eve (for proof, I invite you to see my article called The Biblical Evidence Against the Theories of Evolution). We all come from a common set of genes. In fact, the Israelites and all of the nations living at that time, as well as all people living today, also have another pair of common ancestors: Noah and his wife:
"Then God said to Noah, "Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you--the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground--so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it." So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons' wives." (Genesis 8:15-18)
So when God commanded the Israelites not to intermarry with other nations, it had nothing to do with "racial purity" because everyone on earth at that time was descended from Adam and Eve, and they were also all descended from Noah and his wife. The Israelites and all of the other nations all ultimately came from the same genetic stock.

Now that we have seen what the Old Testament says, let's take a look at what the New Testament says. When marriages (or husbands and wives) are mentioned in the New Testament, there are no commands which say that husbands and wives must be from the same race, the same skin color, the same nation, etc. For example, here are some things that the New Testament says concerning marriage:
"Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband." (1 Corinthians 7:1-3)

"Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife." (1 Corinthians 7:8-11)

"Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this." (1 Corinthians 7:27-28)

"If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin--this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better. A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord." (1 Corinthians 7:36-39)

"Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, ... In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well." (1 Timothy 3:2,11-12)

"Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth." (1 Timothy 4:2-3)

"So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander." (1 Timothy 5:14)

"An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient." (Titus 1:6)
The New Testament never says that a Christian must marry someone in the same race or the same culture or the same skin color, and so on. In fact, the New Testament specifically says that a Christian is free to marry anyone that he or she wishes to marry. The only requirement is that the person must belong to the Lord:
"A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord." (1 Corinthians 7:39)
Christians are free to marry anyone, as long as the person is a Christian.

Here's another passage which does not explicitly mention marriage, but which makes the same point:
"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?" (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)
Since Christians should not be "yoked" together with unbelievers, this implies that Christians should not marry non-Christians. Again, Christians are free to marry anyone, as long as the person is a Christian. There are no commands in the New Testament against interracial dating or marriage.


Conclusion

In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites not to intermarry with people of foreign nations, but we saw that "racial purity" was never the issue. The reason for this command was because the Israelites would turn from God and begin serving foreign gods, which is exactly what happened.

In the New Testament, there is only one command concerning whom Christians can marry: A Christian must marry another Christian.

When Christian marriages are mentioned in the New Testament, nothing is ever said about Christian husbands and wives being from the same race, the same skin color, the same nation, the same culture, etc. Based on all of this evidence, I don't see anything Scripturally wrong with interracial marriage among Christians.

For unmarried Christians, I highly recommend a book by Joshua Harris called I Kissed Dating Goodbye Offsite Link (as well as his follow-up book called Boy Meets Girl Offsite Link). Some people agree with his thoughts on giving up dating, and some people disagree, but I highly recommend these books because he provides some great insights on how to have a Godly relationship before marriage. Even more importantly, he gives some powerful guidelines on how to know if a person is the mate that God intends for you to have. After all, sometimes we get so emotionally involved with a person that we miss hearing from God about whether or not that person is meant to be our future spouse. Christians are not supposed to get divorced (except possibly in the case of adultery), so if we make the wrong decision and marry the wrong person then we'll be stuck in a marriage which is not the perfect marriage that God intended for us to have (and which we always dreamed of having). It can be difficult waiting for God to bring that perfect person into our life, but I like to recommend those books by Joshua Harris in case it helps unmarried Christians to be able to recognize that perfect person whom God has chosen for them. Also, Christian recording artist Rebecca St. James Offsite Link has a new book called Wait for Me Offsite Link. Her song "Wait for Me" (written to her as-yet-unknown future husband) has had a huge impact on unmarried Christians around the world as they wait for God to bring them their future spouses, and her book is getting rave reviews!


For some more thoughts on interracial marriage, including some obstacles that an interracial couple might encounter, see Is interracial marriage biblical? Offsite Link.


I hope this has been helpful, and may the Lord abundantly bless you as you study His Word!
 
 
 
  Modification History  
 
 

  • 07/08/2002 - New article.