Mixed-Race in the Bible

Others have written–and in the future will write–more eloquently and extensively on this topic. However, being blessed to be in an interracial marriage, I feel compelled to add my voice and influence anyone I can–no matter how few that may be–in regards to this topic.

In this article I will mainly point out a few prominent interracial couples and their mixed-race children in scripture. By doing so I hope to give people biblical examples of God’s blessing on both interracial couples and people of mixed heritage.

If you are looking for a good debunking of the “Curse of Ham”, Tony Evans has shot that myth to pieces here.

If your concern is the Old Testament laws that forbid intermarriage–which is referring to religion and not race–John Piper deals with that issue in his longer message on interracial marriage here.

Joseph

While Joseph was in Egypt, he married an Egyptian woman. Lest we overlook it, this marriage broke some of the cultural norms of the time (Genesis 43:32).

“And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-paneah. And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On.” – Genesis 41:45

Joseph and Asenath had at least two mixed-race sons together. Their marriage and the children born to it were clearly a blessing and comfort for Joseph. We can see that from the way in which he names his two sons and gives glory to God through it.

“Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph. Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him. Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.’ The name of the second he called Ephraim, ‘For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” – Genesis 41:50-52

When Jacob was old and nearing his end, he called Joseph and his two sons to him and spoke a blessing over them. Part of that blessing was counting Ephraim and Manasseh as part of the twelve tribes of Israel. They are sometimes called the tribe of Joseph or listed each as half-tribes.

“And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. And the children that you fathered after them shall be yours. They shall be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance. – Genesis 48:5-6

So, these two sons of Joseph born from an interracial marriage make up part of the twelve tribes of God’s chosen people Israel. They are also the only grandchildren that Jacob blesses and he goes so far as to say of them, “Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are.” Jacob places them on the same level as his own sons.

Moses

“Aaron and Miriam began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.” – Numbers 12:1-2

There is some debate on whether this wife is Zipporah or a second wife after Zipporah had died. Either way, the implication is clear. Moses’s wife was black. Cush is a region south of Egypt near Ethiopia. In the Bible they are known for the darkness of their skin (Jeremiah 13:23).

Aaron and Miriam tried to use the fact that Moses’s wife was darker than they were and not Hebrew to speak against Moses. God answers their attack on Moses and his marriage in a powerful way.

“And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, ‘Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.’ And the three of them came out. And the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. And he said, ‘Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?’ And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed.

When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. And Aaron said to Moses, ‘Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” Numbers 12:4-12 

God defends Moses before Aaron and Miriam. He states the special relationship He has with Moses in the way that He speaks to him and specifically commends Moses’s faithfulness. Then the Lord punishes Miriam by turning her skin white as snow with leprosy.

I don’t think it is reading too much into the text to notice the link between their criticism being based on the color of her skin and God’s punishment being a skin disease. We also should not miss that this is the brother and sister of Moses that attacked him in such a way.

What happened next in the story is a testament to the character of Moses. Even though they had attacked him and his marriage, he urgently prayed to the Lord to heal Miriam.

“And Aaron said to Moses, ‘Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.’ And Moses cried to the Lord, ‘O God, please heal her—please.’ But the Lord said to Moses, ‘If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.’ So Miriam was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again.” Numbers 12:11-15

This is an important example for those of us in interracial relationships, with mixed family, or those who are defending the rightness of it. While we should stand boldly for what is biblical and right, we must also “forgive as we have been forgiven” and “pray for our enemies”. It is only by the grace of God that our own eyes have been opened to the truth. Those that have not yet accepted the gospel of Christ or who have, but have not yet had this area of their mind transformed by the truth need healing just as Miriam did and just as we all do. We should pray for that healing in the mind and heart of those that are missing part of the beauty of God’s creation and the gospel.

Rahab

In Joshua chapter two Rahab is introduced. She was a prostitute and citizen of Jericho. Joshua sent two spies to Jericho that Rahab hid in her home from the king of Jerhico and his soldiers. When she helped the Israelite spies she professed her faith in the Lord and made them swear to spare her and her family.

“Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, ‘I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt,and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.” – Joshua 2:8-12

The spies gave Rahab a scarlet cord to hang from her window as a sign that her family was to be spared. Joshua chapter six tells the story of the fall of Jericho as well as how Rahab and her family were saved.

Because of Rahab’s faith in God and her welcoming of the spies, she was included in the “Hall of Faith” in chapter eleven of Hebrews.

“By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” – Hebrews 11:31

From Matthew we learn that some time after the fall of Jericho, Rahab later married into God’s people and became part of the line of King David and eventually the line of Christ.

“Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.” – Matthew 1:5-6

Ruth, David and the line of Christ

The story of Ruth is often taught with a focus on the foreshadowing of Christ being our “kinsman-redeemer” in the same way Boaz is Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer. Ruth was a Moabite that married into a Hebrew family that had moved to Moab to escape the famine in Israel at the time. All of the men in the family died while in Moab, so Naomi, Ruth’s Hebrew mother-in-law decided to move back to Israel. Ruth decided to follow Naomi saying,

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” – Ruth 1:16 

While living and doing her best to provide for herself and Naomi, Ruth catches the eye of Boaz through her character and hard work. Boaz–who himself is mixed, the product of an interracial marriage between his father Salmon and Rahab–then redeems Ruth and marries her.

This means that king David’s great-grandmother was a Moabite and great-great-grandmother was a Canaanite, making David himself at least an eighth Moabite and a sixteenth Canaanite–assuming both Obed and Jesse married women that were fully Hebrew racially and my math is right.

As far as the line of Christ is concerned, Rahab and Ruth are some of the only women listed in Matthew’s genealogy–there are no women listed in Luke’s–both of whom are non-Hebrews that had interracial marriages. It should be pointed out that Joseph had no union with Mary before Jesus was born and therefore Jesus did not receive any of his genes, but for legal purposes He was the descendant of Joseph and therefore in the line of king David.

Timothy

Timothy is a prominent figure in the early church and in Paul’s ministry and letters. 1 and 2 Timothy are written to him from Paul. He appears repeatedly throughout Acts (chapters 16-20) and is mentioned as a co-sender along with Paul of the letters 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Further He is mentioned in some way in Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Hebrews.

Paul describes Timothy as “my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 4:17) as well as stating that Timothy “has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” (Philippians 2:22). Paul ascribes all of this praise to someone who seems to be only a young man (1 Timothy 4:12).

When Timothy first appears in the New Testament, this statement is made about him,

“Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek.” – Acts 16:1

Apparently Timothy was of mixed heritage, his mother being Jewish and his father Greek. This young, mixed disciple was used by God to have a huge impact for the gospel of Jesus Christ both in the first century and continuing on through scripture up to the present day.

In one of the letters that Timothy is listed as a co-sender of we find this statement,

“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” – Colossians 3:11 

Every division you can think of is done away with in the gospel. We are all one in Christ. (Galatians 3:28 lists male and female as another division brought into unity in Christ).

Interracial marriage between Christians can be a powerful, daily statement of the power of the gospel that tears down the walls that this world and sin try to build. The unity and oneness of marriage is to model the relationship of Christ and the church. An interracial marriage and mixed children can visibly demonstrate the effect the gospel should have on believers of differing races, that we are all one in Christ.

Thank you for taking the time to read this piece. I know that I still have much to learn about this both in regards to scripture as well as daily living it out. If you have taken issue with anything I have said, I am humble and willing to listen and learn, please reach out. I know there is no way to completely deal with this topic–or any other for that matter–in a simple piece or even a book. That being said, if you think I left out something very important that needs to be said, by all means let me know.

I wanted to finish by addressing three different types of people.

If you happen to be reading this and have not yet been made a part of the family of God through Jesus Christ, I urge you with all of my heart to read through these verses on the gospel, find a Bible and beginning reading the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and find a church or group of other believers in Christ. Feel free to reach out to me as well if you want.

If you are a Christian but still have differing views on this topic, as your brother in Christ I ask you to prayerfully study the Word thoroughly on this topic, ask yourself why you believe what you believe about it and ask the Lord to reveal His truth on the matter to you.

For those of you who are fellow believers and agree with the stance I have taken, I would ask for your prayers for me and my family and all of us as a body of believer. The enemy loves to divide us in any way that he can, racial differences have long been a weakness in the world and the church specifically. We must pray that the lies of the world and of the enemy around this topic would be torn down by the truth found in Christ and the Word. We must ask the Lord to give us wisdom and insight how best to live out these truths in our daily lives. And we must pray for those who have not yet had the gospel transform this part of their lives.

Personally, I ask that you would pray for my family. That you would pray for our protection from the lies and attacks of the enemy, that truth would reign in our own hearts and minds. Pray for boldness and joy as we seek to visibly live out the gospel and that we would remain faithful to the Lord and each other always.

Lastly, I would like to pray for you, dear reader. Whichever group you might find yourself in, this is my prayer for you.

“Lord, we do not have the time or the words to fully recount your awesome deeds or praise you for who you are. We thank you for your love and mercy that you have showered on us in your grace. We ask that you would continue to reveal yourself to us.

God, I pray for whoever may have read this short piece. I ask that your truth would be brought to the top and anything not of you would fall away. I ask that your grace would rain down on them fresh right now, whether it is the first time they realize it or the ten thousandth. That your mercy would appear as new and fresh as the dawn. That they would know and believe your good news in its entirety, with all of their heart, soul, and mind. That they would be totally transformed by your gospel. God I ask that you would put a hedge of protection around them, that the plans of the enemy would be foiled and the worries of this world undone by your presence and truth. Use them to be a light for you that would pierce the darkness. Enable them to live in total freedom from fear and bondage, knowing that far, far greater are you in us, Lord, than the one who is in the world. Thank you for your steadfast love Lord, never changing and never waning, always perfectly complete.

In the name of Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.”

God be with you.