Interracial Marriage and the Bible

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Does the Bible allow or forbid interracial marriage? Were the ancient Israelites racially "pure" when they left Egyptian bondage? Did God warn them not to indulge in interracial unions with all the nations around them (e.g. Egyptians, Philistines, Hittites, Amorites, etc.)? Did he command this to maintain their "purity?"

This short article will examine a few of the assumptions and conclusions made by those who firmly believe God does not approve of interracial marriage.

´╗┐Perhaps the greatest assumption made by those who thunder that interracial unions are wrong is that the Israelites had a "pure" heredity which God wanted them to maintain. The Bible shows, however, that the group who left Egyptian bondage was anything but pure genetically.


Joseph is one of the many sons of Jacob (renamed Israel). Brothers who are envious of him sell him into slavery at an early age. After a period of several trials, God blesses him with the responsibility of overseeing all of Egypt in order to save his entire family. He marries an Egyptian woman and produces two sons named Manasseh and Ephraim (Genesis 46:20). Was Joseph's 'interracial marriage' against the will of God? Was he and his family considered not true Israelites?

Before his death, the patriarch Jacob specially "adopts" Joseph's two boys and makes them the chief inheritors of the birthright blessings received by his grandfather Abraham! God not only allowed and accepted Joseph's interracial union, he also had Jacob perform a unique ceremony that made them the chief representatives of the family named Israel (see Genesis 48)!

God greatly blessed Joseph's two sons Ephraim and Manasseh. By the time of the Exodus, the tribe of Ephraim could muster 40,500 fighting males and Manasseh had 32,200 men who could go to war (Numbers 1:33 - 35).

Some who study this topic often overlook the fact that God did not restrict who could and could not leave Egypt in the Exodus. Scripture states, "also a mixed multitude went up with them" (Exodus 12:37), meaning that many non-Israelites left Egypt under the leadership of Moses. It was to this mass of people that God gave instructions some have mistakenly used as "proof text" to show that interracial relationships are a sin.

The 34th chapter of Exodus delineates the creation of a second set of stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments. The first set was broken by Moses when, as he was coming down Mount Sinai, he saw the Israelites worshipping a pagan god (Exodus 32).

Exodus 34 also records a warning, directly from God, that is interpreted by some as forbidding interracial dating and marriage. A careful reading of the pertinent verses, however, shows that this interpretation is incorrect.

Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the people of the land where you go (the Promised Land the Israelites were to inherit), lest it be for a snare . . .

Lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go whoring after their gods . . . (Exodus 34:12, 15, HBFV).

Who is being given the above "interracial" warning? It is to all those children of Israel (and many others from differing nations) who were freed from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12:37). The warning concerns marriages between those who will enter Canaan with those who already inhabit the land. It is given by God to keep his people pure in their worship and to keep them from worshipping false (pagan) gods.

God was not forbidding interracial couples in Israel from being wed in an attempt to keep his people of the same race (which they were not). He was warning against matrimony that brings two people of differing religious understandings (e.g. one worships pagan gods, the other, the real God!) together which will cause chaos!

In the eyes of God, not man, all humans are of "one blood" (Acts 17:26). We are all descendants of Adam and Noah. In the strictest sense, there is only one race that exists - the human race. The Bible does not forbid what man defines as interracial marriage.

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