Greetings: My question is what does scripture say about interracial marriage? My husband and I have recently had occasion to discuss this and I am asking for wisdom to respond to some of his concerns. We both were raised in rural WV where our culture frowns on this. I used to agree with the reasons we were taught growing up. 1. Ham & descendant of Canaan were cursed 2. God told the Israelites not to marry from other groups 3. God separated the continents during Peleg’s time to divide nationalities. 4. Moses couldn’t enter the promised land because he married a Cushite from Ethiopia.
But as I’ve matured as a believer, I’ve read the scriptures they drew from and didn’t find God mentions this but that it was more likely [people] read how they wanted it to speak. The only separation I found was from pagan nations, or unbelievers.
I’m not searching merely to have a topic to discuss or argue but my husband is truly upset that have changed my mindset. While I would prefer my grandchildren not marry interracial it’s more due to the reality of the family division it would bring. I will however advise their potential mate be a believer. He however is frustrated because my change of heart challenges his prejudice. He is beginning to blame my church for teaching me this and while I have been believing he will come to have a relationship with Jesus and come with me, this seems to be a backwards route. I’m sure I’m not alone in this culture/religion shift.
Having just returned from speaking at many churches in Ghana (RDL), I had the opportunity to see a number of outstanding marriages between people with black skin and people with white. We have noticed this also at many churches we admire here in the United States. However, and this is huge, these marriages are between two believing Christians. We also know several interracial couples in Israel and of course both spouses are deeply committed Orthodox Jews. Shared belief is what matters. We would like to discuss this question from a few more angles, starting with correcting some Biblical misinformation.
Taking your points in the opposite order:
1. We have no idea where you are getting this idea from. Tzipora made Moses a wonderful wife, even assuming the responsibility of circumcising her sons when Moses delayed. (Exodus 4:24-25) Scripture is very clear that Moses did not enter the land because he struck the rock rather than speaking to it according to God’s command. (Numbers 20)
2. We discuss the spreading out of nations as spoken about in Genesis 11:8 in our audio CD Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel. Dividing people into nations in no way ruled against marriage between groups.
3. You are correct that the Israelites should only marry other Israelites. It is equally true that Christians would be well advised to marry other Christians. This is a spiritual mandate, not a racial one. Even descendants of our arch-enemy, Amalek can convert to Judaism at which point that individual becomes a full Israelite. There are two nations, Moab and Ammon which were descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot, from which male converts were not accepted due to deep cultural flaws. (In today’s day and age we have absolutely no idea who comes from these lines.) There is absolutely no suggestion of this being connected to skin color and as Abraham’s relatives, they came from the same family as he did.
4. Ham’s 4th son, Ham, was indeed cursed by his grandfather, Noah, to serve his brothers. (Note, he was not cursed by God.) However, Ham had many other descendants as well. We know that this verse was misused historically in support of enslaving Africans, but that isn’t textually supportable. Biblical verses have often been perverted in the past and we know many today who continue to misquote and take things out of context on all sorts of issues.
None of this matters in your disagreement with your husband. It sounds to us as if your involvement with church is leading you to grow in ways that are making your husband uncomfortable. We are sure this is not the the only issue to crop up between the two of you.
As we see it, the question is how to maintain a loving and respectful marriage as you mature in certain ways. Of course, in all successful marriages on all sorts of issues, both husbands and wives focus on their spouses good points rather than weaknesses. We urge you not to allow religion to become a wedge between you. Demanding that your husband grow spiritually at the same pace and time as you is unrealistic.
Until and unless this becomes a practical issue for your family, we would suggest that you not discuss it. Why focus on an area of disagreement? Hopefully, your husband will see you becoming a better and happier person through your church involvement. At the right time, this may encourage him get more involved as well. This will not happen if your church involvement leads you to condemn and provoke him.
We are not familiar with rural West Virginia culture but no matter how you and your husband were raised, the fact is that the coming generations are likely to think differently about race. As long as your husband treats all people with respect and kindness, what he thinks about different races marrying is truly not terribly important.
Sometimes, the other way is the best way to look,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin