Interracial Marriage And Segregation

by David Padfield

Is it a violation of the will of God for a person of one race to marry someone of another race? People like David Duke espouse racial hatred, but it is hard for me to understand how any Christian could agree with him. Over the years I have met individuals who have turned their racial prejudice into "Bible doctrine." In this article we will look at a few passages these "bigots in sheep's clothing" use to propagate their dogma of racial superiority and/or separation.

Old Testament Israel

Those who preach racial segregation usually start by claiming God prohibited the Israelites from marrying people from any other nation. One of the passages they like to (mis)quote is Deuteronomy 7:1-4, "When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly."

Instead of "proving" the Israelites could not marry any foreigner, this passage proves just the opposite! God specified "seven nations" out of all the earth they were not allowed to intermarry with or make treaties with. You will notice God was dealing with nations, not skin color. This great country of ours is composed of many different races, but we are still one nation "under God."

Some have claimed that Solomon sinned by marrying foreign wives -- this is not the whole story. Solomon did marry foreign wives, but his sin was that he married women from the "seven nations" God had prohibited anyone in Israel from marrying. "In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people. So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, 'You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves.' Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin." (Neh. 13:23-26).

After returning from Babylonian captivity, the leaders of the people went to Ezra and said, "The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is intermingled with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass." (Ezra 9:1-2). Again, you will notice the sin was not in simply marrying foreigners, but in marrying people from the "seven nations" God had prohibited them from intermarrying with.

Those who teach it is sinful for a Christian to marry an unbeliever almost always pull these same verses out of context to support their position. They need to read Deuteronomy 21:10-14 where instructions are given on how to marry female war prisoners -- women taken from among the enemies of God's people.

The Example Of Moses

After the death of Zipporah the Midianite, Moses married a foreign woman. "Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman" (Num. 12:1). As Albert Barnes wrote in his commentary more than 100 years ago, "The marriage of Moses with a woman descended from Ham was not prohibited, so long as she was not of the stock of Canaan (cp. Ex. xxxiv.11-16); but it would at any time have been offensive to that intense nationality which characterized the Jews."

Moses tells us the Lord was angry with them for their improper speech (Num. 12:9). Apparently Miriam was the instigator, and as punishment for her sin, God turned her into a leper, "as white as the snow" (Num. 12:10). It appears as if the Lord was saying to Miriam: if you think white is better than black, then I will make you really white (i.e., a leper). This incident was recorded so Israel would know there was to be no racial prejudice among them.

Vernon Barr, a noted Baptist debater, said, "Intermarriage between black and white races had its origin in Socialist and Marxist doctrines. It is basically atheistic" (The Curing Of Ham, p. 30). I wonder if Vernon Barr thinks Moses was a Marxist or an atheist?

A Pure Blood Line

Segregationists also like to claim Israel was not allowed to intermarry with other nations so the blood line of the Messiah could be kept pure. If this was the plan of God, He failed. In the genealogy of Christ (Matt. 1:1-17) we find two Gentiles mentioned. In Matthew 1:5 we read, "Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab." Rahab had been a heathen prostitute in Jericho (Joshua 2:1). Matthew 1:5 also tells us, "Boaz begot Obed by Ruth." Ruth was a heathen woman from the land of Moab, who became an ancestor of King David and Jesus.

As Vernon Barr railed against mixed marriages, he said, "if they have offspring, they contribute to a mongrel race" (The Curing Of Ham, p. 28). If Barr is correct, then both King David of Israel and our Lord were born from a "mongrel race."

The Curse Of Ham

Some racists like to refer to a mythical thing called "The Curse Of Ham." Their argument goes like this: God cursed Ham, the father of the black race, and therefore it is a sin for a white person to marry a descendant of Ham. Most people who use this argument believe that black people are biologically, mentally and socially inferior to whites.

You can not read in the Bible of any curse God placed on Ham. However, you can read of the curse Noah put on Canaan, one of the sons of Ham (Gen. 9:24-25). Ham had three other sons: Mizraim, Cush and Put (Gen. 10:6). It was the descendants of Cush, not Canaan, who settled in Africa. Segregationists know even less about geography than they do about the Bible.

Concerning the curse placed on the descendants of Canaan, Matthew Henry said, "though the Canaanites were a formidable people, yet they were of old an accursed people, and doomed to ruin. The particular curse is, A servant of servants (that is, the meanest and most despicable servant) shall he be, even to his brethren. Those who by birth were his equals shall by conquest be his lords. This certainly points at the victories obtained by Israel over the Canaanites, by which they were all either put to the sword or under tribute (Josh. ix. 23; Judg. i. 28, 30, 33, 35), which happened not till about 800 years after this" (Matthew Henry's Commentary On The Whole Bible, Vol. 1, p. 74).

Character, Not Color

One time, when preaching on this subject, an individual asked, "Would you want your children to marry one from another race?" Well, I might have my preferences. I would prefer my sons to marry a pretty girl instead of an ugly one. I would prefer them to marry a girl with a humble background than a socialite. I would prefer they marry a young lady who has finished her formal education instead of a high school dropout. These are my preferences and as most children are quick to tell you the preferences of their parents might not carry a lot of weight!

Instead of focusing on the color of skin, I would rather my sons look at the character of the young woman they desire to marry. "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised" (Proverbs 31:30).

I am not trying to "force the races together" as some might charge. But, neither am I trying to erect barriers between any man and woman on the basis of skin color. The apostle Peter sinned when he showed prejudice, "and the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy" (Galatians 2:13).


We need to remember that God does not look at the color of a man's skin to determine his worth. Your physical ancestry is meaningless. What really matters is whether or not you are a spiritual descendant of Abraham. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:28-29).

The "heirs according to the promise" are not identified by the color of their skin, their country of origin or who their parents might have been. As Paul told the brethren in Rome, "he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God" (Romans 2:28-29).