A Biblical Look at Intercultural Marriages
- Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Intercultural marriage has existed almost since the beginning of mankind. After the incident that occurred at the Tower of Babel, people were scattered over the face of the earth (Genesis 11:1-9). As the years passed, various language dialects, traditions, and cultural habits developed that were particular to people groups who migrated to different areas. People began to consider their own language and ways as familiar and right, and other languages and traditions as "foreign."
Over the years since then, many nations of the world have had regulations banning or restricting intercultural and interracial marriage. During the Nazi regime, Germany banned interracial marriage, and South Africa also banned it during the apartheid era. Intercultural and interracial marriage were illegal in most areas of the United States until the 1967 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Loving v. Virginia. In this case, Richard Loving, a white man, was convicted under Virginia's anti-miscegenation law for marrying Mildred Jeter, a woman of African American and Native American descent. On appeal of this conviction, Loving argued that the law violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, which requires that all citizens receive equal treatment under the law. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court found in the couple's favor, proclaiming the Virginia statute unconstitutional.3
Intercultural and Interracial Marriages in the Bible
Now, let's take a look at several biblical marriage narratives. Most of them are poignant love stories, but a few are cautionary tales. From these biblical examples, we'll discover more about God's gift of marriage and the intriguing dynamics of intercultural partnerships.
Moses and Zipporah
Moses' sister, Miriam, and his brother, Aaron, spoke out against Moses in part because they disapproved of the Cushite woman, Zipporah, whom he had married (Numbers 12:1). Zipporah was the daughter of Jethro, the priest of the land of Midian. Most biblical scholars agree that the region called Cush was located in what is now Ethiopia, meaning that Zipporah was most likely black.
Notice that God never told Moses not to marry Zipporah. The fact that she was black seemed to be a non-issue, and her godly religious heritage as the daughter of a priest made her an excellent match for Moses. However, Miriam and Aaron grew jealous, not only of the fact that Moses had married a woman who was not an Israelite, but of the fact that God had chosen to use Moses as His mouthpiece when speaking to the people. Miriam and Aaron used the fact that Moses had married a Cushite woman to try to stir up the Israelites to question his authority and mutiny against his leadership.
God responded sternly to Miriam and Aaron's sinful racial and cultural prejudice as well as their attempt to undermine Moses' leadership. According to Numbers 12:9-10, God struck Miriam with leprosy as a result of her choice to speak out against Moses and Zipporah. (Most likely, Aaron would have been struck with leprosy, too, if not for the Jewish law that a priest could not be a leper.) Moses prayed fervently for God to heal Miriam. The Lord decreed that, because Miriam was unclean, she must stay outside the Israelites' camp for seven days. After that time, He restored her health. Both Miriam and Aaron learned a valuable lesson about racial prejudice. As far as we know, they did not speak out against Moses and Zipporah ever again.
Samson and Delilah
Samson began life as a Nazirite, set apart from birth for the purpose of serving God. An angel visited Samson's mother before his birth and told her that Samson was not to drink wine, eat unclean food, or have his hair cut as he grew up. But one day, when he was a young man, Samson saw a beautiful Philistine woman in Timnah. He told his father and mother, "Get her for me as a wife."
His parents protested and said, "Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?" But Samson said to his father, "Get her for me, for she looks good to me" (Judges 14:2-3).
Any red flags there? Samson knew nothing about this woman except the fact that she was beautiful and she came from the tribe of the Philistines, the Jews' arch-enemies, who worshipped idols. Samson married her, and she betrayed him. Her father gave her to Samson's friend as a wife (Judges 14:20). When Samson discovered this, he was furious. He retaliated against the Philistines by burning their crops. As a result of the destruction that Samson's wife had brought to them by marrying Samson, the Philistines put Samson's wife, her father, and the rest of her family to death.
After that time, Samson judged Israel for twenty years (Judges 15:20). But he hadn't learned his lesson about lusting after women who did not serve the Lord. He fell in love with a woman named Delilah from the Valley of Sorek, which separated the land of Judah from the land of the Philistines. The Philistines coerced Delilah to get Samson to reveal to her the source of his strength. Three times he told her the wrong answer. Finally, however, he revealed the truth: that if his hair were cut, he would lose his strength. During the night, Delilah called a man to come and cut off Samson's hair (Judges 16:5-19).
The next morning, the Philistines seized Samson, gouged out his eyes, and forced him to work as a grinder in the prison. The Philistines also made sport of Samson, forcing him to entertain them at parties. But his hair grew while he was in prison, and his strength began to return. Samson's last act was to use a massive show of strength to bring down the pillars of a large house where the Philistines were celebrating. Samson died when the house collapsed, along with 3,000 Philistines (Judges 16:20-31).
Samson's downfall was his weakness for women who did not love and serve God. His example offers a strong warning for us, demonstrating why a Christian should not marry a person who doesn't share the same faith or spiritual values.
David and Bathsheba
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