INTERRACIAL MARRIAGE

Despite interethnic marriage being discouraged throughout the Bible many modern Christians now encourage it. Popular theologian John Piper has made a name for himself advocating it. [1]

Research has repeatedly demonstrated that interracial marriages end in divorce more often than same-race marriages. For marriages involving a white female and black male the divorce rate is 200% higher than if the white female had married a white male. [2]*

Even couples that cohabitate before marriage, and those who experience “low religiosity” divorce at lower rates than interracial couples.  The only predictors of divorce as accurate as “interracial marriage” (41%) is “history of anxiety disorder” (42%) and “high school dropout” (42%). [3]

Would God have Christians encouraging risky marriages? Does God want Christians to foolishly enter unstable marriages and risk the breakup of their families just to fight racism?

NATION OF ISRAEL

Interracial marriage is discouraged throughout the Bible.

In the book of Ezra, the Israelites repented of their abandonment of God. As part of this repentance they pledged to end their interracial marriages according to God's will:
“We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law. Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.” (Ezra 10)
A similar experience is recorded in Nehemiah 13:
“Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah. I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God’s name and said: ‘You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves.’”
Other prohibitions against interracial marriage can be found in Exodus 34:12-16, Joshua 23:12, and Deuteronomy 7:3: “Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons.”

Some have claimed the Bible's ban on interracial marriage was based on religion rather than ethnicity, and that the sole purpose of the prohibition was to keep the people pure of idolatrous influence.

This certainly cannot be true in the book of Ezra, where the people put away their ethnically different wives and children. If the purpose was exclusively religious why would the wives and children not have merely converted to Yahweh with their husbands?

Furthermore, one of Nehemiah's objections to interracial marriage was based on the bi-racial children’s spoken language (“[they] did not know how to speak the language of Judah”).

In neither Ezra nor Nehemiah was the concern of a purely religious nature.

PATRIARCHS

Even before the Nation of Israel was created, interracial marriage was considered undesirable. The patriarchs invested great effort and grief into avoiding it. When Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac he told him to return to his own ethnic group to get her:
“Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” (Genesis 24)
We know that Abraham's concern for the ethnicity of Isaac's future wife was devoid of any religious component because he had fled his old clan to escape their idolatrous ways.

Abraham had his servant vow to find Isaac an idolatrous but ethnically similar wife. The servant later restated Abraham’s words: “go to my father’s family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son.”

In the following generation, Isaac and Rebeka repeated this process with Jacob. Esau married outside his ethnicity which nearly destroying his mother. As she told Isaac:
“I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.” (Genesis 27:46)
Isaac honored his wife's request by instructing Jacob:
“Do not marry a Canaanite woman. Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.” (Genesis 28:1-4)
Isaac's concern for Jacob to avoid marrying a Canaanite women had nothing to do with religion. As revealed later in the book, Laban's family was heavily idolatrous, and Jacob had a hard time eradicating this legacy later in life.

In his instructions to Jacob, Isaac revealed that part of his concern with Jacob not marrying outside his ethnicity was that he wanted the descendants of Abraham to eventually possess the land of Israel by out-breeding the Canaanites. If Jacob interbred with the “women of the land” Abraham's distinct genetic line would have been destroyed.

God appears to have agreed with Isaac's ethnocentric view because he chose Jacob (the younger son) to be the father of his people over the elder son Esau who had corrupted Abraham's line by marrying outside his ethnic group.

MOSES’ BLACK WIFE?

Supporters of interracial marriage often seek examples from the Bible.

The most common of these is Moses' alleged Afroethnic wife in Numbers 12: “Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite.”

The problem with interpreting this passage as an interracial marriage is that supporters of this view make two huge unlikely assumptions.

Firstly, they argue that Cush was located south of Egypt in the modern day Sudan/Eritrea/Ethiopian region (an area that was generally inhabited by dark skinned people). However, the name Cush is also applied to the region directly across the Red Sea in the Arabian Peninsula. [4] This shared name resulted from a Semitic Arabian kingdom conquering the region of Africa below Egypt. [5]

Secondly, there is the assumption that the “Cushite” women mentioned in Numbers 12 was not actually Moses' first Midianite wife Zippora.

We know the land of Midian, in which Moses met Zipporah, is in Arabia. [6] The most likely scenario, then, is that the Cushite women of Numbers 12 is really the Midianite Zipporah.

Furthermore, the Midianites were a people group descended from Abraham (I Chronicles 1:32). In this case, it is not proper to claim the marriage was truly interracial.

RUTH & BOAZ INTERRACIAL?

The second union often touted as a God ordained interracial marriage is that of Ruth and Boaz. Ruth and Boaz eventually entered the bloodline of Christ. The theory arose because the Bible refers to Ruth as a “Moabite” women in Ruth 1.

There are three problems with this claim.

Firstly, the Moabites were descended from Lot and were thus related to the Israelites, so one would be hard pressed to categorize this as an interracial marriage.

Secondly, there is much reason to believe Ruth was actually an Israelite. Many people in the Bible are described as being from a region which does not necessarily represent their true ethnicity. For example, Moses was called an Egyptian in Exodus 2.

Ruth might have been an Israelite inhabitant of the land of Moab after the Moabites had been wiped out by the Amorites, and then the Amorites wiped out by the Israelites (reference: Numbers 21:26-29, Deuteronomy 2:23-43, Numbers 21:33-35).

Thirdly, if Ruth was an ethnic Moabite her grandson King David would not have been an Israelite under Mosaic Law. As Deuteronomy 23:3 makes clear: “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD forever.”

The fact that Ruth was a pagan before following Naomi is not surprising because for most of Israel's history a huge part of the Hebrew population worshiped idols.

JESUS DESCENDED FROM CANAANITE RAHAB?

Matthew 1 includes Jesus' genealogy. In verse 5 of the King James Version, Matthew writes: "And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab." Other translations render "Rachab" as "Rahab" and led to the widespread belief that the Canaanite prostitute who helped the Israelite's spy out the city of Jericho was among Jesus' ancestors.

While this interpretation has become extremely popular, the evidence leans against it. When the Canaanite Rahab is mentioned in the Bible, her name is followed by "the harlot." This is how James and the writer of Hebrews describe her in James 2 and Hebrews 11. In addition, James and Hebrews uses a different Greek name than the one used in Matthew. This strongly suggests the "Rachab" of Matthew was not "Rahab the harlot."

Nowhere in the Old Testament is it stated that Rahab the harlot married or had children, and there are other "Rahabs" mentioned in Psalm 87, Psalm 89, and Isaiah 51. The evidence supporting the Canaanite Rahab's presence in Jesus' genealogy is not very strong.

THE NEW TESTAMENT

Probably the strongest Biblical argument against interracial marriage, however, can be gleaned from the New Testament.

Throughout the Epistles, Paul warns Christians to avoid offending their Church family and causing division. On matters of opinion, Paul said Christians should default to the view of the person who will be damaged.

In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul said he would become a vegetarian if a fellow Christian was offended by his consumption of meat. This is a strong admonition towards unity.

Interracial marriage is almost universally abhorred and resisted by parents. Interracial marriages often cause intense division in families and illicit disgust from most people in society. Personally, I know families divided by it.

Does God want us to tear apart families and participate in a relationship that drives us away from each other?

Nowhere in the Bible is interracial marriage encouraged, and everywhere it is discouraged. Why should Christians interracially marry when this behavior results in division, abhorrence, identity crisis for children, and higher likelihoods of divorce?

The fruits of interracial marriage are few and selfish.


NOTES

[1] John, Piper. "Racial Harmony and Interracial Marriage." Desiring God. 2005. Accessed 2015. http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/racial-harmony-and-interracial-marriage.

[2] Bratter, Jennifer, and Rosalind King. ""But Will It Last?": Martial Instability Among Interraical and Same-Race Couples." Red Cube. April 1, 2008. Accessed November 1, 2015. http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2008.00491.x?r3_referer=wol&tracking_action=preview_click&show_checkout=1&purchase_site_license=LICENSE_DENIED.
EXCERPT: "We compare the likelihood of divorce for interracial couples to that of same-race couples. Comparisons across marriage cohorts reveal that, overall, interracial couples have higher rates of divorce . . . We also find race and gender variation. Compared to White/White couples, White female/Black male, and White female/Asian male marriages were more prone to divorce, meanwhile, those involving non-White females and White males and Hispanics and non-Hispanic persons had similar or lower risks of divorce."
*Additional Note:  White males married to Asian females do not experience a greater risk of divorce. This essay deals primarily with white/black interracial marriage because of the great harm it causes.

[3] Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the United States. Hyattsville, Maryland: CDC: Department of Health and Human Services, 2002.

[4] Talour, Christian. "Was Biblical Kush/Cush Black African?" Christianity and Race. October 1, 2014. Accessed November, 2015. http://www.christianityandrace.org/2014/10/was-biblical-kushcush-black-african.html.
EXCERPT: “In a book published by Princeton University The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam the author (David Goldemberg) argues that Biblical Ethiopia might have been pretty much anywhere in the Middle East depending on the particular reference.”

[5] Breasted, James. "The Meaning of Ethiopia in the Bible." Bible Tools (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia). June 1, 1910. Accessed November, 2015. http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/ISBE/ID/3233/Ethiopia.htm.
EXCERPT: "The country which we now know as Abyssinia was largely controlled, from the earliest known date, by a Caucasian people who had crossed the Red Sea from Arabia. The true Abyssinians, as Professor Littmann shows, contain no Negro blood and no Negro qualities. In general they are ‘well formed and handsome, with straight and regular features, lively eyes, hair long and straight or somewhat curled and in color dark olive approaching brown.’ Modern discoveries prove their close racial and linguistic connection with Southern Arabia and particularly with the kingdom of Sheba (the Sabaeans), that most powerful people whose extensive architectural and literary remains have recently come to light."

[6] "Midian." Wikipedia. November 1, 2015. Accessed November, 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midian.
EXCERPT: “Midian... is a geographical place and the Midianites a people mentioned in the Torah and in the Qur'an. Scholars generally consider it to have been located in the ‘northwest Arabian Peninsula, on the east shore of the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea.’”