Is there anything in the Bible that forbids people from different ethnic origins from marrying or dating? Can an African-American marry an Anglo-Saxon? Is it biblical to have a Hispanic or Latino person marry a Native American? Are there any Scriptures that address this issue?
Does the Bible Say Anything About Mixing of the Races?
When God called Israel out of Egypt, He warned them about having anything to do with the other nations. For example, if the nations began marrying people of other nations, they would begin to follow their practices. Their hearts would go after other gods and worship idols which were really not gods at all. The Lord warned Israel time and time again. The Moabites tried repeatedly to have Balaam curse Israel, but he could not. They even offered to pay him to curse them but he refused, instead, “Balaam spoke his message: “Balak brought me from Aram, the king of Moab from the eastern mountains. ‘Come,’ he said, ‘curse Jacob for me; come, denounce Israel.’ How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the LORD has not denounced” (Num 23:7-8)?
So how could the Moabites have Israel destroyed? They could do it from within. It would be from sexual immorality with the Moabites. What happened was exactly what God had predicted would happen to Israel if they mixed with another nation. “While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the LORD’s anger burned against them” (Num 25:1-3). Their interrelations by their sexual immorality turned their hearts to idolatry as they bowed down before false gods and turned their heart away from the One True God. This however had nothing to do with mixing of the races. It had to do with mixing of the pagan nations and Israel (who believed in God). God was not concerned that they would intermarry with other nations because of their race but because of their tendency to follow other nation’s idols and worship false gods. This was not God banning interracial marriage but forbidding Israel from becoming entangled in false religions and thus being unequally yoked with pagan unbelievers. This happened so frequently that you would have thought that Israel had learned it long ago, but intermarrying was still a problem at the time of Ezra: “They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness“ (Ezra 9:2).
Don’t Be Unequally Yoked
It is very interesting that in the section of 2 Corinthians 6, Paul ties intermarriage of believers and unbelievers with idolatry. This is the same warning that God often gave Israel. Second Corinthians 6:14-17 shows the interconnectedness of the marriage of a believer and an unbeliever: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” Paul sees that if we marry someone who is not a believer, it is like trying to harmonize Christ with Belial. Belial is a Greek word which means “worthless or wicked” and is just another name for Satan. The idea of being unequally yoked goes well back into Israel’s history. A parallel of this idea was even commanded by God regarding animals: “Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together” (Duet 22:10). That is because it creates tension and disharmony. The same principle could be applied in the marriage between a believer and an unbeliever.
Paul commanded Christians not to marry someone who is not because it could take them away from worshiping God. God told ancient Israel and God tells Christians today through Paul to “Come out from them and be separate [and] touch no unclean thing.” Paul used the same verses in 2 Corinthians 6:17 which are found in Isaiah 52:11 and Ezekiel 20:34,41. Again, this has no connection with race at all, just as it didn’t in the Old Testament Scriptures. God’s message is always about grace, not about race, but He does not want a Christian to marry a non-Christian. These Old and New Testament Scriptures are not talking about interracial marriage as some have believed and others have falsely taught. Neither are those about Israel intermarrying with other nations. God knew that idolatry would happen if pagans and His people intermarried. Paul was too but none of these Scriptures are about race.
Paul was also not teaching Christians that are already married to leave their spouse as he states in 1 Corinthians 7:39, “A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” Nowhere in the Bible does God permit an already married believer to divorce or leave an unbelieving spouse just because they are not a Christian. God hates divorce although under conditions of abuse or unrepentant sexual immorality (ongoing adultery), there are exceptions.
Does the Bible Forbid Interracial Marriage?
I found that some “religious” denominations not only teach that different races should not marry but if they do, they are banned from church membership. Here are some of the Scriptures that they use to try and justify such teachings:
Leviticus 19:19 “Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.”
This was the first Scripture given by a denomination that I will not name here, which they used as their first and foremost reason for saying that interracial marriages are sin. The fact is that this chapter is not talking about other nations at all but about agricultural and sanitation laws for the nation of Israel, and when it does mention the foreigner, does God not say avoid them? In this same chapter, God says that “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God” (Lev 19:33-34). So in the same chapter that they use one verse to justify their non-acceptance of interracial couples there are several verses that tell the Israelis to not mistreat “the foreigner residing among” them and they should be “treated as your native-born.” What this denomination has done is taken one verse out of a chapter of 37 verses and taken this one text out of context to make it a pretext – and a false one at that! This Scripture does not support the forbidding of interracial marriage and certainly should not be used as a church’s policy to forbid interracially married couples from becoming members. This is why the Samaritans were looked down upon so much, but not by Jesus as evidenced by the Samaritan Woman at the Well (John 4:4-26).
The next most frequent Scripture that I could find that some denominations use to justify their banning of membership to interracial couples is Genesis 1:11-12. This is also from the Old Testament. Genesis 1:11-12 reads, “Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.” These churches who teach and have by-laws against interracial marriage – even calling it sin – use this verse to justify it. They use the word “each kind” to say that races should stay within their own kind. The species of each race they say should remain within their own species (race). But species has nothing to do with race! The Hebrew word for kind (“miym”) is actually species which refers to birds, cattle, vegetation, and seeds, not human beings! This is a stretch for sure. Once more this denomination has taken a text out of context to make it a pretext.
There are absolutely no Scriptural grounds or biblical authority in the Old Testament or the New Testament to teach the forbidding of interracial marriages. The Old Testament’s frequent mention of Israel not intermarrying with other nations had nothing to do with race…it always had to do with those nations who were pagan. Paul taught that we are not to marry unbelievers because it can lead Christians astray from worshiping God but Paul was not referring to race at all. Paul was not saying to believers to divorce unbelievers but not to marry an unbeliever if you were already a Christian. These Scriptures had nothing to do with the mixing of races in both the Old and in the New Testament. On the contrary, James says “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism” (2:1) and “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers” (2:8-9)
If we look at the skin color and judge whether someone should marry another with a different skin color or from a different nation and even a different race, we are not looking at them as God does. That is sin. First Samuel 16:7b says, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” So should we. Every human bleeds red blood. We are all created in the image of God (Gen 1:26) and so we have no reason to forbid interracial marriage or to look down on those who choose to marry from different races, because “the LORD looks at the heart.”
New International Version Bible
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide