The Bible has many references to people groups, nations, and lineage, but does that make it racist? Not in the way we generally think of racism. In our modern-day we tend to focus on visible distinctions (skin color, hair type, or language) and we use those distinctions to malign people. The color of a person’s skin is used to determine if a statement or decision was racist, wrongfully exempting some and falsely accusing others of racism. When the world rejects Truth and defines all “right and wrong” based on self we shouldn’t really find double-standards all that surprising. We live in a day where sinful judgement takes place all of the time and is often smoke-screened with ad hominem attacks and straw-man racism. Rather than discuss the issues at hand, many who struggle with racism who are caught without a valid argument are the first to play the “racist” card. The world is lost because it has rejected the Truth of God’s Word.
Romans 1:18-20 (ESV)18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
So enough about how wrong and sinful the world is today. Let us turn to the Truth of God’s Word to explore this notion of racism and see what the Bible has to say on the matter.
God Created Mankind as One Kind, a single race.
Let us begin on the sixth day of Creation Week.
Genesis 1:24-31 (ESV) 24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Every living creature is created according to its kind. When God created plant life (day 3), He instituted the concept of bearing seed after it own kind. Each kind of plant will only bear seed of its own kind, and it will not bear the seed of a different kind. A banana kind will not suddenly bear seeds for stone fruit (like peaches). When the Bible refers to procreation of man, it uses the same rules of seed bearing after its own kind. The Hebrew word (אָדָם) is translated Adam, man, and mankind. All of mankind are a single race. That any man can join with any woman and produce children after their own kind demonstrates this truth. The creation account in Chapter 2 further illustrates this truth.
Genesis 2:18-20 (ESV) 18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
In all of creation, there was no helper suitable for Adam. Therefore God created woman out of man and joined them together. One race, one kind, and it was all very good. Now, God designed within Creation a wide array of variety, for we have classified many variations within kinds (different cats, dogs, fruit, vegetables) of the lower creatures and within mankind (heights, weights, skin tones, hair types, eye colors, etc). Before the fall, there was only Adam and his wife, but the genetic material was all there. With sin came the curse, and degradation of all of creation. Divisions of mankind happened, but they did not become different kinds.
The Reset in the Time of Noah
We know that there was great variety in mankind after the fall as they multiplied on the earth. There were men of great renown (Nephilim or giants) in those days and after the flood (Sons of Anak; Numbers 13 (ESV)). In Genesis 6, we see God is grieved by the wickedness of mankind on the earth and brought judgement upon it, saving Noah and his family. Now all people groups, all of the race of mankind is preserved in the 8 who were aboard the Ark. After the flood, the face of the whole Earth was changed, as well as its climate, and the need to survive in multivarious environments had to have been designed into the mankind by God, and it was. All of mankind spoke one language, and were one people.
Now sin persists in mankind and soon after the flood and the first harvest of the vine, Ham, sinned against his father, Noah. Noah curses Canaan, the son of Ham, as punishment for the wrong committed him by Ham. This becomes our first major separation of people groups, the sons of Canaan become subjects to Japheth and Shem who did what was right by Noah. This is a prophetic judgement on the house of Canaan, one God revisits in the time of Abraham.
Genesis 17:7-9 (ESV) 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” 9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.
Abraham was a descendant of Shem. But how did the groups become so foreign to one another in the time that passed between Shem and Abraham, such that Abraham was a sojourner in the land of Canaan?
The Tower of Babel
Let’s look turn to the beginning of Genesis 11.
Genesis 11:1-9 (ESV) | The Tower of Babel
1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
So, we see the first separation of people groups after the flood comes as a direct result of sin committed against Noah. A prophetic declaration of separation from the sons of Shem and Japheth and the sons of Ham. After some time, we have a second, major separation when God confused the languages of the people. Remember that everything here was written by Moses as he recorded God’s eye-witness account. We have some clue as to how the languages divided the people by looking at the genealogies recorded in chapter 10, particularly in how the accounts of the descendants of Japheth, Ham, and Shem are concluded. Let’s look at the descendants of Ham.
Genesis 10:6-20 (ESV) 6 The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan.
7 The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca.
The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan.
8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. 13 Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, 14 Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.
15 Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, 16 and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, 17 the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 18 the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the clans of the Canaanites dispersed. 19 And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. 20 These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.
I’ve highlighted several of the people groups that would become enemies of Israel, worshipers of false gods, wicked men of old. I am confident that most of the highlighted ones are easily recognized while a couple (Heth and Cush) might not be so. We looked at the significance of the descendants of Heth in the story of Jacob and Esau. We will take a look at Cush, but for now I’d like to draw your attention to the significance of Nimrod, the first on earth to be a mighty man. Now, we know that there were Nephilim or giants before the flood, so here the connotation is that Nimrod is perhaps the first earthly king. The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh. This is significant in understanding what went wrong in the building of the Tower of Babel. After having established his kingdom, he sought to build a tower into Heaven, to be like God, and he had the support of the people. We see that when he left the land of Shinar, he built Nineveh.
After God confused the languages of the people, they dispersed in clans, languages, and nations over the Earth. When their languages split, so did their gene pools and their cultures. Very few remembered God their creator… as we see in chapter 12, God calls Abram to leave the land of his family (Ur of the Chaldeans) into a land that God would give him. We see God calling Abram out of the dispersion of people who had at one time committed to build a monument to themselves, a tower to Heaven. Much like today, when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to call out of the world a people for Himself. The key separation here is a people who follow and worship the One True God, the descendants of Abraham.
What about skin color?
Skin color has already varied because our genetic makeup has already been set; however, it has not been mentioned as a determining factor in dividing people groups. Now that we have clans and languages split, and the post-flood world, it stands to reason that skin color may become more and more significant in the natural selection process based on climate and language. Answers in Genesis did a good job of explaining how skin type plays a role in natural selection with regards to climates.
Fast-forwarding to Moses as he records the Law, he is God’s chosen prophet to the children of Israel. God used Moses to deliver Israel from their slavery in Egypt, and to lead the people of Israel through the wilderness while God made Himself known to Israel first, and the rest of mankind later. He promised Abraham that the nations would be blessed by his offspring, that is Jesus Christ, through whom all mankind might be saved from the wrath earned by their sin. In Numbers, chapter 12, we see events transpire that would easily qualify as racism in today’s vernacular.
Numbers 12 (ESV) | Miriam and Aaron Oppose Moses
12 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. 2 And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. 3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. 4 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. 5 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. 6 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. 7 Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. 8 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?” 9 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed. 10 When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. 11 And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. 12 Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” 13 And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her—please.” 14 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.” 15 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. 16 After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran.
Ah, here we have a reference to Cush, the son of Ham. The Hebrew word here translated “Cushite” is elsewhere translated “Ethiopian”. The root of this word is the Hebrew word for the Cush which also means “black”. Cush was probably given his name because he was born darker than his siblings. The land of Cush is the land in the southern regions of the Nile, south of Egypt. Moses had taken a black woman for a wife, Miriam and Aaron oppose Moses for it, and God’s anger is kindled. The people have the Law and the statutes of the Lord. If they had any just objection to Moses marrying this woman, they would have presented their case. They didn’t, Miriam and Aaron objected to the marriage and even slightly invoked their status as having prophesied before the Lord before as somehow supporting their issue against Moses. God was furious. He addresses even the fact that the prophets don’t even speak to God in the same manner that God speaks to Moses. As punishment, God strikes Miriam with leprosy. Even when Moses makes his plea with God to heal her, God insists they abide by the Law, and so Miriam must observe the Law and wait 7 days outside the camp before being allowed back in. Is false judgement according to the color of skin condoned in the Bible? Absolutely not. Miriam was cut off from her people (for 7 days) for it.
What we superficially throw around as racism is in no way condoned in the Bible. God created one race, one kind, that is mankind. There are divisions of people, first and foremost whether or not we know the One True God and worship Him as God. There are differences within mankind, differences that I believe God enjoys, for He is the one who Created our variety, our languages, our appearance, our skills, our laughter. He created us in His likeness, in His image… we are a dim reflection of His Greatness. We all are sinners, we’ve all fallen in the sin of Adam and are born dead in sins and trespasses. But just as in Adam all men have sinned and died, through Jesus a way of salvation was provided for all of mankind.
John 3:16-21 (ESV) | For God So Loved the World
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
John 6:28-29 (ESV) 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
Do the work of God, believe in Jesus Christ, whom the Lord God sent out of His love for us, so that we might not perish. Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. May the Lord bless you and keep you in His Word.
In Christ Jesus,