What Does the Bible Say About Mixing Races?

The Bible teaches that mixing races in marriage is allowed when both the man and woman are believers. Mixing races in marriage can be a beautiful sign of the inclusion of all races in the kingdom of God.

What Does the Bible Say About Mixing Races

Many Christians wonder about whether or not it is permissible for Christians to mix races in marriage. In some circles, much false teaching related to mixing races has dominated based on a misunderstanding of the Old Testament story and misinterpretations of passages in the New Testament. But what does the Bible say about the topic of mixing races?

What Does the Bible Say About Mixing Races (KJV)?

“Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. 4 For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.” Deuteronomy 7:3

Although this verse is sometimes used to argue against mixing races, this verse forbade the people of Israel from mixing races with the people of Canaan specifically, and not the mixing of races generally. The purpose was to keep the people of God holy, set apart, preserving right worship of Yahweh alone and keeping away from the demonic idol-worship of the surrounding nations.

“And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” Acts 17:26

Here in Acts it is clear that mixing of races was part of the original means by which the earth was filled with people: all people, of various races, come from the one man, Adam. Such genealogical record can be found in the many instances of “These are the generations” (ʾēlleh tolēḏoṯ) in the book of Genesis (Genesis 2:4; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10; 25:12; 25:19, and others).

What Does the Bible Say About Mixing Races in Marriage?

In the Bible, there are examples when mixing races in marriage is allowed, and other examples when it is prohibited. The issue is essentially a matter of worship.

Examples When Intermarriage is Approved

“And Moses was content to dwell with the man [the priest of Midian]: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter.” Exodus 2:21

Moses marries a woman from Midian (Exodus 2:15-21). The Midianites are said to be descendants of Abraham’s wife, Keturah, and were therefore not Israelites. Given Zipporah’s actions of covenant obedience in Exodus 4:25, it is likely she and her family were worshipers of Yahweh. The marriage between Moses and his non-Israelite wife from the people of Cush is challenged by Miriam and Aaron (Numbers 12:1), yet their speaking out against Moses leads to judgment against them, not Moses.

Both Ruth and Rahab were married into the people of Israel after declaring their worship of the God of Israel. Both appear in the New Testament genealogy of Jesus. The rationale, then, is that intermarriage is related more fundamentally to the issue of worship and Lordship rather than race.

Because foreign nations often worshiped other gods, there are examples in the Bible when mixing races in marriage is forbidden.

Examples When Intermarriage is Forbidden

There are a few examples when mixing races in marriage was forbidden in the Bible. However, the primary reason this was the case was to preserve the covenant community from the false gods and idolatrous worship associated with the nations which surrounded Israel. The Israelite community was to be holy, set apart, in order to be “a light to the nations,” making known the glory of the God of Abraham to all the world.

“A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.” Leviticus 21:14

Here the Lord commands the high priest only a virgin from among the people of Israel.

“And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods. And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice.”1 Kings 11:8-9

Solomon is condemned for marrying women from other nations, not because their marriage mixes races but because their worship of other gods led both him and the people of Israel to false worship and idolatry.

Similarly, in the book of Ezra, the rejection of “strange” or “foreign wives” in Ezra 9:2 and 10:11 can be seen as a means of preserving covenant faithfulness and right worship of Yahweh, as well as a means of separating the people from idolatrous practices. The primary issue here is mixing idolatrous worship with worship of Yahweh, which was the primary reason the people of God were exiled from their land.

Intermarriage in the New Testament

In the New Testament, the Bible continues to prohibit believers from marrying unbelievers on the premise that it can lead to divided worship.

“The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” 1Cor. 7:39

The command in the New Testament is for believers to marry other believers. Issues of interracial marriage are not forbidden.

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”2 Corinthians 6:14

The command for believers not to marry unbelievers applies to people of the same race as well, demonstrating that the and is not fundamentally opposed to people mixing races in marriage. This passage has been used inappropriately by some to speak of mixing races in marriage. However, as the full context of the verse reveals, Paul is speaking directly to the issue of believers marrying unbelievers.

What Does the Bible Say About Mixing Races

What Does the Bible Say About Diversity?

The Bible envisions worshipers of God as being a diverse group of people. Such diversity brings glory to the God who made all people in his image. God never intended to limit his promises to one group of people (Israel), but for his people to be the conduit through which all of the nations of the earth are blessed. Diversity has always been the goal or biblical picture of God’s promises.

“I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6

The goal of God’s covenant promises was always to include a diverse group of people from every nation. Israel was intended to be a light to lead all nations to the one true God, such that the gospel in the New Testament was to be preached to all nations (Matthew 28:19).

“When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Acts 11:18

The result of the proclamation of the gospel in the book of Acts is that the church quickly became diversified. The gentiles (or “non-Jewish people”) had also received the promise of salvation through the Holy Spirit.

Bible Verses About Ethnicity

“And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” Genesis 26:4

God’s goal of forming a people for himself from every nation of the earth is first explicitly given to Abraham. While Israel was to be a partial fulfillment of this promise, of bringing God’s light to the surrounding nations, Paul interprets the promised “seed” (a singular offspring) of Abraham as being Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). Jesus units people from all nations and ethnicities under his Lordship.

“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands” Revelation 7:9

One of the most defining pictures of ethnicity in the Bible occurs in John’s Revelation of those gathered around the throne of God. The worshipers are made up of people from all ethnicities and languages and culture, all gathered together and worshiping God.

Stephen D

Stephen Dillard serves as a Bible Scholar with Wycliffe Associates and is a contributing writer on Revelations.org. He is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. He and his wife, Madison, have four children and make their home in Indiana.

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