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QUESTION: In the book of 2Corinthians, the apostle Paul states that Christians should not be 'unequally yoked' together. What does this phrase mean?

ANSWER: In the scripture you reference, Paul is using the analogy of animals unequally yoked or put together to make a point concerning the selection of a mate. The verse in question is in chapter 6.

14. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and lawlessness have in common? And what fellowship does light have with darkness? (2Corinthians 6:14, HBFV)

A pair of oxen yoked together

Animals that were yoked in the Bible had a piece of wood used to connect a pair of animals so that their combined abilities could more easily perform a particular task. Each animal is placed in their own collar. Oxen, horses, donkeys, and mules paired in this fashion were good for pulling a load, plowing a field and so on.

Another use of this device was for teaching. A seasoned animal would be connected with an untrained one. If the untrained one lagged behind, the seasoned animal would keep up the proper pace, and the trainee had no choice but to keep up. If the trainee decided to go to the left or right, the seasoned animal controlled that too.

Farmers know it is not wise to team up two unequal animals. For example, since an ox has shorter legs than a horse, putting them together would mean a constantly tilted yoke that diminished the combined strength of the animals. Additionally, the ox, being a slow, plodding animal, would prevent a horse from working at its proper pace.

What does the Bible say about arranged marriages?
Does the Bible permit different races to marry?
Are couples who live together married before God?
Does God's word permit polygamy?

This brings us to your question. Marriage is a mutually accepted yoke two people choose to bear. Between them, they must bear the 'load' of maintaining a home, rearing children and so on. What would happen if a virtuous woman chose to be 'yoked' or married to a drug addict or an alcoholic? Her husband would not likely share the responsibilities of marital life with his wife, and they would eventually become estranged, perhaps divorced.

It is not a good idea for a Christian to marry a non-Christian. The Christian's beliefs would be a constant irritant to the spouse, and the marriage would become strained. Such a situation is occurring in the Jewish community today. Many Jews, unequally yoked with non-Jews, are causing the religion to become diluted.

Would it be good practice for an honest man to go into business with a dishonest one? No, it would not be an unwise decision. Such an unequal yoking together might soon leave the honest man bankrupt.

God intended the nation of Israel to be his showcase nation to the world (Deuteronomy 16:15 - 19, 28:1, 9 - 14). His intent was the other nations would see the value of serving the eternal God. He commanded them not to make any covenant (become yoked together with) the nations around them, lest their ungodly ways entice the Israelites to go after false gods (Exodus 34:11 - 16).

Unfortunately, the Israelites did not listen to their King. They got together with the idol-worshipping nations and fell away from serving the true God. The rest of the story is a sad one indeed, and although the unequal yoking took place thousands of years ago, the world is still suffering the effects today. Simply put, the modern world, just like ancient Israel, has kicked God out of government, business, schools, homes, and individual lives. Is it then any wonder why the world is in constant turmoil?

Jesus tells us that we can avoid or lessen being unequally yoked together if we ". . . learn from ME; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:29, HBFV).

Answered by Les Turvey
One of BibleStudy.org's Email Evangelists

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