The term “mixed marriage” can carry a lot of baggage. Some people condemn the idea, but as Christians, we should want to know what the Bible says about the subject before arriving at any conclusions. So, does the Bible allow or forbid mixed marriages?
In order to answer that question, it’s important to understand that there are three types of mixed marriages. The first type is when people of different races get married. The second type is when people of different cultures get married. The third type is when people of different religions get married.
Let’s examine each of these from a biblical standpoint. By the end of this article, you should know which kinds of mixed marriages are forbidden by and acceptable to God.
Interracial marriage is what typically comes to mind whenever the term “mixed” is used. The concept of race is a social construct for describing the ancestral origins of a person. Racial identification helps catalog differences in our inherited appearances, but scientifically speaking, we are all homo sapiens.
Furthermore, biblically speaking, we understand all humanity to have come from one person (Act. 17:26). Therefore, the question of interracial marriage could be phrased as “Does the Bible allow marriage between people of different skin colors?” I’m going to focus on the character of Moses to answer that.
Numbers 12:1 records Moses as having a Cushite wife. Scholars debate whether this person was Zippora or another woman, but what’s undebated by them is her skin tone; she was dark-skinned.1 The prophet Jeremiah even explicitly mentions the skin color of Cushites (Jer. 13:23). That’s because Cush is traditionally associated with the land of Ethiopia, and in fact, some Bible translations use “Ethiopian” here.
This interracial marriage angered some of Moses’ relatives. Aaron and Miriam used it to challenge his leadership, but God defends Moses in the following verses (Num. 12:1-11). Perhaps discerning the accusation as racist, God temporarily afflicts the skin color of Miriam as a punishment (v.10). This story undoubtedly serves as a lesson against racism, but it could also be regarded as God’s allowance for this type of mixed marriage.
However, in Deuteronomy 7:1-5, Moses forbids the children of Israel from marrying specific people groups in the Promised Land. It seems hypocritical for him to have married an outsider while forbidding others to do the same. What’s going on here?
Intercultural marriage is another type of mixed marriage in the Bible. This appears to be what Moses is prohibiting in Deuteronomy 7 since these people would have looked quite similar to the Israelites. Moses believed the cultures of the people groups in the Promised Land would turn Israel away from serving God, and Joshua echoed his belief after conquering them (Jos. 23:6-13).
Well, Moses and Joshua were right. King Solomon violated their commands and became responsible for the fate of Israel (1Kin. 11:1-13). Immediately following his reign, the unified kingdom was divided into two kingdoms; the northern kingdom became captives of Assyria while the southern kingdom eventually became captives of Babylon. Only after finally returning from captivity would the Israelites vow to obey the commands of Moses and Joshua (Neh. 13:23-27).
There are definitely cultural practices contrary to the ways of God, and the ancient Indian practice of yoga is a good example. To those theologically uninformed, it seems to be a beneficial physical activity that promotes flexibility and a healthy lifestyle. However, to the theologically informed, the practice of yoga is deeply rooted in Eastern philosophy and inseparable from the religion of Hinduism.2 Some of the positions and postures glorify Hindu deities by reenacting their stories.
Notwithstanding, many professing Christians still choose to practice yoga. I encourage you to lovingly approach yoga-practicing Christians with this information, but from my own experiences, you might get a resistant reaction from them. These Christians still don’t repent and cease practicing yoga even after being told that it honors other gods.
This is a modernized example of what Moses and Joshua were attempting to avoid. Therefore, it stands to reason that those intercultural marriages were prohibited because of their enticing but entangling religious rituals and practices. They are just as spiritually damaging today as before.
However, apart from contrary religious practices, interculturalism should be celebrated! After all, Jesus Himself emerged from a uniquely intercultural period in Israel, and some of the first Christians to receive the Gospel were from intercultural regions outside of Israel (Act. 2:1-41). The cross-cultural aspect of the gospel message still helps believers contextualize and spread it across the world today, and heaven will be undoubtedly filled with people from every culture because of it (Rev. 5:9-10)!
Interreligous marriage is the type of mixed marriage that the Bible forbids. Consider the rationale behind Moses’ command in Deuteronomy 7:1-5; verse four makes it clear. The root reason for God’s prohibition on mixed marriages wasn’t race or culture; it was religion.
Furthermore, the New Testament explicitly forbids interreligious marriage. In 1Corinthians 7:39, the Apostle Paul instructs Christians to only marry other Christians. He didn’t want believers to be unevenly yoked with unbelievers in any sort of partnership, especially marriage (2Cor. 6:14). Like Moses and Joshua, Paul rightly discerned the spiritual dangers of interreligious marriages and prohibited them.
I hope this article has helped you understand why interreligious marriage is the only type of mixed marriage forbidden by the Bible. God desires to see everyone saved from judgment (1Tim 2:3-4), but He won’t save those choosing to align themselves with other gods (Exo. 20:3). It’s not uncommon for believers to struggle with this topic, especially when emotions are involved, but I pray this guidance has helped you in some way.
May God bless you and give you the desires of your heart.Psalm 37:4
- Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Cush.”
- Lars Langøien, “Yoga, Change and Embodied Enlightenment,” Approaching Religion 2, no. 2 (2012): 27-37.