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based on Numbers 12:1-15
A boy in Harvard College, many years back, got his father in Maine to come to Cambridge and see the football game between Yale and Harvard. As they sat down, the boy slapped his father on the back and said, "Dad, for three dollars you are going to see more fight than you ever saw before." The old man smiled and replied, "I'm not so sure about that Son, that's what I paid for my marriage license." Marriage is like football in several ways. It covers a lot of ground, and their are many obstacles to overcome. Whoever is not prepared to face obstacles had better not plan to play football, or get married.
The football player faces two kinds of obstacles. There are those built into the game, and which must be accepted to give the game meaning. Then there are the illegal, or unjust, obstacles, which we call dirty playing. Sometimes the dirty player is penalized, and sometimes he gets by with it, and the innocent player suffers unjustly. Those who enter into marriage face obstacles they know to be part of the game. There are natural and normal trials, struggles, and adjustments. Marriage partners also face the obstacles of dirty play also. They face the opposition of the ignorant, the cruel, the prejudiced, the jealous, and those with numerous other evil motives.
Moses had to face this kind of dirty play when he chose to marry across the race line. He chose an Ethiopian, who was a descendant of Ham, to be his wife. His sister and brother were offended by this union, and they made it known publicly. They sought to degrade Moses because of it. Hastings Dictionary of the Bible says concerning the Ethiopian, "It is likely that a black slave girl is meant and that the fault found by Miriam and Aaron was with the indignity of such a union." Most are convinced she was black, or at least dark, but their is a possibility that she was no darker that Moses himself. She could have been a part of the Cushites who were of Arabian stock, and less dark that the Ethiopians. This is really irrelevant since the major fact is that it was an interracial marriage.
The text indicates that Miriam did not approve of the union, but it does not give the slightest hint as to why. It could have that it had nothing to do with her race at all, even though this is assumed by almost everyone. It is possible that she was jealous of the woman. There is an ancient translation that reads, "Because of the beautiful woman he had married, for he had married a beautiful woman." Jealousy could have been the problem, and not racism, for it was thought to be a disgrace at this early stage for a Jew to marry a Gentile.
Many find a typology here. Moses is like Christ marrying a Gentile, who represents the church. Miriam and Aaron are the angry Jews who oppose this union. All of this is historically true, but we have no basis for reading it back into this text as a prophetic type. We cannot read race hatred and prejudice back into the hearts of Miriam and Aaron. All we can say is that we have here an instance of interracial marriage by one who is a great man of God, and that he was upheld by God, and the opposition was judged. Moses was not lowered in his dignity before God, or the people, but is exalted as being a servant of God. His marriage across race lines did not reduce his role in the least. God appears to be highly indifferent to the matter of race or color in marriage. There is not biblical evidence against interracial marriage, but much that would show it to be perfectly normal and honorable.
But why would anyone marry a person from another race? Why do you suppose Moses married an Ethiopian when there were all kinds of Jewish girls he could choose from as the leader of his nation? Solomon, no doubt, had dozens, if not hundreds of dark skinned wives, or concubines. Many were gifts from foreign governments. Moses, however, freely chose to marry one outside of his own race. The reason is likely the same as the one that accounts for interracial marriages all over the Western Hemisphere. He fell in love with her. It is a human fact that where any two races are in frequent contact, there will be intermarriage. People will fall in love with people of any race if they are in contact.
A little known fact is that when Israel was delivered from Egypt a great many people of mixed races also went out with them. In the 400 years of captivity there was a good deal of interracial marriage. Joseph, who brought his people into Egypt, married Aseneth, the daughter of an Egyptian priest. He could do this, even as a member of a minority race, because he rose to a high level social status. Jews and Egyptians would intermarry, but most such marriages would be between the Jews and other slaves, such as the dark skinned people of Ethiopia to the South. Their would also be a mixture of Jews and Arabs. We read in Ex. 12:37-38, "And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succdoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. A mixed multitude also went up with them..."
It is not surprising that Moses would find one of this mixed multitude attractive, and then choose to take her as his wife. She was among his people, and romantic love knows no race barrier. This is so true that there is no such thing as a pure race. All races have intermarried down through the centuries. For example, if we study the genealogy of Jesus we discover that Jesus was not a pure Jew. There is Gentile blood in blood line. The Jews were forbidden to marry with the wicked Canaanites, but Rahab the Canaanite is in the genealogy of Jesus. He had in his blood line some of the blood of Canaan who was cursed by Noah.
Intermarriage with the Moabites was not allowed either, but Ruth the Moabitess is in the genealogy of Jesus. She was, in fact, the grandmother of David, Jesus, as the son of David, had a Gentile for a grandmother. Jesus was not a pure Jew, and there are few who are. The fact that Jesus had interracial marriage in His family tree makes it obvious that there is only a disgrace in the mind of the racist who makes race an idol, and pure blood a god. You might ask, however, why were these marriages allowed to be a part of the blood line to the Messiah when they were forbidden in general? This is the key to the whole subject. The reason marriage was forbidden between Jews and others was not at all based on race or color, but on belief and unbelief. The only kind of marriage the Bible forbids is a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever. If anyone of another race becomes a believer, as did Rahab and Ruth, there is no longer any reason to forbid marriage. Anyone who enters the kingdom of God by faith in Christ becomes a potential mate for anyone else in the kingdom.
The secular scholars battle back and forth on the level of brain capacity, social and cultural equality, and other such issues which are totally irrelevant to the Christian perspective. There is only one factor that makes any ultimate difference to the Christian, and that is the factor of faith in Christ. When that is present, all else is secondary. We will look at the problems the secondary factors do cause, but these are no basis for rejecting a legitimate interracial marriage.
Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, and our example. Does He practice interracial marriage? Consider His bride the church. Here is marriage on the highest spiritual level, and we can discover that Jesus chooses all races to make up His bride. His bride is red and yellow, black and white. There are millions of racial differences in the body of Christ. The body, like the Head, is not of any pure race, but is both Jew and Gentile. The Head is more Jewish, and the body is more Gentile, but everywhere it is an interracial body. Christ receives all races, and the Holy Spirit indwells all races. Here is union on the highest level of God and man. It is very near blasphemy to suggest that what he Holy Spirit freely does on the spiritual level is somehow evil on the physical level. If a colored person can be a part of the body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit will impregnate them so that they bear spiritual children of God, who can find an objection to a white child of God taking a black child of God for his or her mate?
Let us recognize we are dealing here with a totally Christian perspective that is unique to the body of Christ, and no other philosophy or viewpoint can see this as the Christian does. Only the believer can see race from within the kingdom of God, and through the mind of Christ. We cannot expect that non-Christians will share this view. It is an exclusive Christian view. Practically it means this: Any marriage between two believers is acceptable in the body of Christ. Race is irrelevant. A mixed marriage is preferable to an unmixed marriage of a believer and non-believer. If a white Christian has a choice of marrying a black Christian or a white non-Christian, he is obligated to Christ and the church to choose the black mate.
It is never right for a child of God to willfully and knowingly marry a non-believer. From a Christian perspective an interracial marriage is always superior to a marriage between faith and non-faith. The deciding factor is faith. The Christian does not stand on anthropology or psychology, or any other ology. He stands in Christ, and sees all people through the eyes of Christ. From there he recognizes that those in Christ from every race are really the only pure race, for they alone are all equally children of God. All believers are as free as Moses to choose their mate from any race, as long as the mate chosen is also a believer.
This does not scratch the surface of the problem out there in the world where the vast majority are not Christians. When this message was written a good many years ago, there were still 19 states that forbid interracial marriages. This was progress, however, for in 1957 there were 30 states that forbid it. I have no figures as to when all were changed, but at that time the United States was the only place in the world where interracial marriage was against the law. This is no longer the case because of the advancement of civil rights.
Interracial marriage is going on continuously, and has been, and that is why there is no such thing as a pure race. Whenever soldiers go to war they choose mates from among the people they are fighting. During World War II American soldiers brought back over 5000 Chinese brides, and even 752 Japanese brides. All the hate propaganda against the enemy could not stop men and women from joining in marriage. This was true back in the days of Israel's conquest also. We read in Deut. 21:10-13.
"When you go forth to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God gives them into your hands, and take them captive, and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you have desire for her and would take her for yourself as wife, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and pare her nails, and she shall put off her captive's grab, and shall remain in your house and bewail her father and her mother a full month, after that you may go into her, and be her husband and she shall be your wife."
This has happened all through history, and there is probably never been a war where it did not lead to intermarriage of the enemies. When men see beauty they desire the beautiful one for a mate, and it makes no difference that they are enemies, or that they are of different races. Those who have fought for segregation know this, and that is the main reason for their objection to the races being together. They know they will fall in love with each other and marry each other. The fear of interracial marriage is behind most racism.
Where does this leave the Christian? We have already made it clear that race purity is irrelevant to the church. Sherwood Wirt in his book The Social Conscience of the Evangelical, which Billy Graham has said every evangelical should read, wrote, "It is the mark of original sin that men take their greatest pride in things over which they exercise no control and for which they can take absolutely no credit. Human skin color falls into this category." We cannot join the racist and remain Christian. We do not have to encourage interracial marriage anymore than we have to encourage marriage between classes, but we do have to encourage all who are married of whatever races and classes, for it is a Christian obligation to be encouragers of people in whatever circumstance, when they are not doing anything that displeases God. Miriam and Aaron made this mistake so we can learn not to make the same mistake.
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