Troublesome Topic: “Don’t Marry Foreigners” Sounds Racist

Lesson 3 of 6

Yes, on the surface “Don’t marry Foreigners” does sound racist.

But I assure you that it was not about the color of one’s skin or about one’s nationality.

One place where the Torah clearly said to not marry foreigners is Deuteronomy chapter 7. In verse 1 it lists seven nations who had earlier occupied the land the Israelites came to take possession of. In my lesson on warfare I explain that God waited at least 400 years until the wickedness of those nations warranted their destruction. The people of Israel failed to destroy all of them, so there were still some around to lure them into idol worship. In Dt 7:3 it is still talking about the people from those seven nations when it says this:

Deuteronomy 7:3


And you must not make yourself a spouse of them; you must not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son,


You must not marry them; you must not give your daughter in marriage to one of their sons, nor receive in marriage one of their daughters for your own son,

Deuteronomy 7:4


for they will cause your sons to turn aside from following me to serve other gods, and the anger of YHVH (read Adonai) will burn against you and He will swiftly annihilate you.


because they will cause your sons to turn away from following me to serving other gods instead, the result being that the anger of THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD will be made burning hot against you and He will swiftly wipe you out.

This Law Was All About Religion, Not About Skin Color

Supporting Point #1 (from human observation): One way we know that the law forbidding the marrying of a foreigner had nothing to do with the color of their skin was because all the nations in that part of the world have the same range of skin color. Each nation in the Middle East has some people who are relatively light, and some who are quite dark. Most of their people are in the middle with brown skin and dark hair. Thus, while those countries have some diversity in the skin tone of their people, the range of that diversity is usually about the same as the nations around them. The range of skin color would have been even smaller in ancient times.

The truth is that every human on the face of the planet has the same coloration of skin, it is a pigment called melanin, which is a dark brown. Some have lots of melanin (darker skin) and some have very little (lighter skin). The only ones for whom that statement is not true are those who don’t have any melanin at all; we call them albinos. Basically, all of us have the same color of skin because we all have the same pigment, and we should not be making such a big deal about skin color!

But even the way we falsely divide the races today according to skin tone, we cannot interpret this law as racist because there is not that much difference between the blend of skin tone of the Jews and the blend of skin tone of the nations around them.

Supporting Point #2: (This point, and the ones to follow, carry more weight because they come form the teachings of God’s covenants. It is the Torah supporting the Torah) God accepted foreigners as long as they followed His covenant (expressed in the Torah), i.e. as long as they became a proselyte to Judaism. In most cases, the foreigner (who had agreed to follow the Torah) had just the same rights as someone born in Israel to Israelite parents.

What changed to make them acceptable? It wasn’t the color of their skin, the shape of their nose or any other external factor. It was a change in commitment from a foreign god to the God of the Bible. This proves that the prohibition was based on religious reasons not racism.

Supporting Point #3: When foreigners did convert to Judaism, they were no longer foreigners. Therefore, the proper way to marry a foreign girl or woman was for her to become a proselyte; then the marriage was legal. The skin of the person being married was not the problem because someone who was off limits according to the law could be made legal by coming under the authority of the Jewish religion and its law.

Supporting Point #4: You will notice in the verse shown above that God’s anger was not made burning hot by the first step, marriage to a foreigner, but by the second step, turning away from Him to follow other gods

If an Israelite man married a foreign girl without any attempt on her part to convert to Judaism, the husband would quickly become influenced by his wife and before long they would be going together to some idolatrous shrine. God knew how likely this was, so He forbade foreign marriages in order to forestall idol worship. It turns out that He knew what He was talking about. The Jews turned to idols very quickly, and the problem was accelerated by intermarriage with people of other religions.

The entire reason for the command to not marry foreigners was to avoid the inevitable slide into idolatry.

For those reading the short and medium-length versions of this series, the next lesson is: Tattoos

But if you are reading the full-length version of this study, the next lesson is: Murder by an Unknown Perpetrator

The next lesson in Why Is That in the Bible? is: Tattoos