Does the Bible Contain Racist Stories?

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Does the Bible Contain Racist Stories?

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Does the Bible Contain Racist Stories?

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God’s Word tells us He does not consider any racial or ethnic group superior (Acts 10:34 Acts 10:34Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
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). His evaluation of each and every human being is based on their willingness to hear Him and act upon what they hear (Romans 2:11-12 Romans 2:11-12 [11] For there is no respect of persons with God. [12] For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
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).

However, God’s Word has been accused of racism, especially in the last few decades. And going back over the past few hundred years, misguided people have used Scripture to back up their own racist theories, and even institutional oppression (e.g. slavery).

The idea that any group of people are superior due to their ancestry, ethnicity or genetic makeup is a humanly devised notion. Bible readers make a big mistake when they project their own way of thinking upon God. He plainly tells us that the way we think is not the way He thinks (Isaiah 55:8-9 Isaiah 55:8-9 [8] For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, said the LORD. [9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
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).

The basis for charges of racism made against God and His Word come from many different directions but revolve around a common theme: the establishment of Israel as God’s chosen people. In this way, critics portray the entire Bible as based upon God’s favor of one race over others. Specific examples often cited include:

God’s command to wipe out the Canaanites—Deuteronomy 20:16-17 Deuteronomy 20:16-17 [16] But of the cities of these people, which the LORD your God does give you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes: [17] But you shall utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD your God has commanded you:
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Religious exclusivity and forbidding intermarriage with other nations—Numbers 25:1-3 Numbers 25:1-3 [1] And Israel stayed in Shittim, and the people began to commit prostitution with the daughters of Moab. [2] And they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. [3] And Israel joined himself to Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.
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; Nehemiah 13:23-30 Nehemiah 13:23-30 [23] In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: [24] And their children spoke half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people. [25] And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take their daughters to your sons, or for yourselves. [26] Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin. [27] Shall we then listen to you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives? [28] And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was son in law to Sanballat the Horonite: therefore I chased him from me. [29] Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites. [30] Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business;
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Jesus’ comments to a Canaanite woman—Matthew 15:22-28 Matthew 15:22-28 [22] And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried to him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, you son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. [23] But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and sought him, saying, Send her away; for she cries after us. [24] But he answered and said, I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [25] Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. [26] But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. [27] And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. [28] Then Jesus answered and said to her, O woman, great is your faith: be it to you even as you will. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
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To some these are examples of racial preference found in Scripture. Let’s see if we can learn a bit more about how God views different races and peoples using His Word to guide us.

What does God’s choosing mean?

The human mind thinks of being chosen by God as a badge of superiority. But that is not how God views His choosing. God’s choosing means you are assigned a task, which, if you accept, you are then expected to carry out according to the instructions you were given.

Israel was chosen to perform a task, or work, for God: to move in and take over the land of Canaan as God drove out the Canaanite people before them. God informed Israel they were not chosen because they were superior to others (Deuteronomy 9:1-6 Deuteronomy 9:1-6 [1] Hear, O Israel: You are to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than yourself, cities great and fenced up to heaven, [2] A people great and tall, the children of the Anakims, whom you know, and of whom you have heard say, Who can stand before the children of Anak! [3] Understand therefore this day, that the LORD your God is he which goes over before you; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before your face: so shall you drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD has said to you. [4] Speak not you in your heart, after that the LORD your God has cast them out from before you, saying, For my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD does drive them out from before you. [5] Not for your righteousness, or for the uprightness of your heart, do you go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God does drive them out from before you, and that he may perform the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. [6] Understand therefore, that the LORD your God gives you not this good land to possess it for your righteousness; for you are a stiff necked people.
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).

The people of Canaan were not driven out because they were inferior and had to make way for others who were of better stock. The people of Canaan were driven out because of their flagrantly wicked behavior, which God would no longer tolerate.

God also warned Israel that if they acted in same way as the Canaanites they would also receive the same treatment (Deuteronomy 8:17-20 Deuteronomy 8:17-20 [17] And you say in your heart, My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth. [18] But you shall remember the LORD your God: for it is he that gives you power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. [19] And it shall be, if you do at all forget the LORD your God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. [20] As the nations which the LORD destroys before your face, so shall you perish; because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.
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).

God measures and assesses all people based on the same criteria: Do they listen to His Word and obey?

Does God exclude other nations from His plan?

Once Israel was established in the land, they had an even larger task to perform. They were to live by the instructions God had given them prior to their arrival. It was a task they had solemnly agreed to perform. That agreement is commonly referred to as the Old Covenant. In living this way Israel would provide a vivid demonstration of God’s way of living for the world to witness.

God intended that the surrounding nations could observe the good things that resulted from obedience and seek to adopt God’s ways themselves. Israel would teach these other nations the ways of godly living (Deuteronomy 4:5-8 Deuteronomy 4:5-8 [5] Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do so in the land where you go to possess it. [6] Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. [7] For what nation is there so great, who has God so near to them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call on him for? [8] And what nation is there so great, that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
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; Isaiah 49:3 Isaiah 49:3And said to me, You are my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.
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).

God did not want any external influences to undermine or confuse the true worship and morality He had given to Israel. This is the real reason for commanding Israel not to intermingle (Deuteronomy 7:2-4 Deuteronomy 7:2-4 [2] And when the LORD your God shall deliver them before you; you shall smite them, and utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, nor show mercy to them: [3] Neither shall you make marriages with them; your daughter you shall not give to his son, nor his daughter shall you take to your son. [4] For they will turn away your son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy you suddenly.
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).

People of foreign origin were welcome to join Israel if they adopted and committed themselves to the laws and worship of God (Leviticus 19:34 Leviticus 19:34But the stranger that dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
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, Leviticus 24:22 Leviticus 24:22You shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.
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). There are simply too many examples to mention, such as Rahab or Ruth.

God intends to bless all people through Jesus Christ

Israel was given the opportunity to serve God to fulfill a promise made to Abraham. God favored Abraham, blessed him, and made a promise to his family because Abraham believed God, and obeyed God’s commandments, statutes and laws (Genesis 26:4-5 Genesis 26:4-5 [4] And I will make your seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give to your seed all these countries; and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; [5] Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
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).

God did not show favor to Abraham because Abraham was of superior breeding stock. The criteria God uses to evaluate and assess humans is their willingness to hear and obey His Word. God also saw Abraham as one who would faithfully teach his children to hear and obey God’s commandments (Genesis 18:18-19 Genesis 18:18-19 [18] Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? [19] For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring on Abraham that which he has spoken of him.
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).

God’s promise to Abraham was to provide blessings for all humanity. He would do this ultimately through Jesus Christ. But in the meantime, He established Abraham’s physical descendants as a nation called Israel and gave them His commandments, laws and statutes to live by. Their obedience would result in great material blessings for Israel. This would serve as an object lesson for all nations and peoples of the earth to copy.

Israel later agreed to perform this work in a covenant with God and also accepted conditions of severe punishment if they failed to do it.

Why did Jesus say He was sent only to the people of Israel?

Jesus did not limit His ministry to the territory and people of Israel because they were more worthy or superior in any way. In fact He told them that if other nations saw the things the Messiah was doing they would have responded much better (Luke 10:13 Luke 10:13Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
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).

Jesus limited His ministry to the children of Israel because the agreement God had made with Israel was still in place during His lifetime. God would continue to abide by the agreement and continue to work through Israel (Abraham’s children) right up until the day Jesus died (Matthew 10:5-6 Matthew 10:5-6 [5] These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter you not: [6] But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
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). Israel was presented with the sum of all truth in the person of Jesus Christ and the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Their appointed task was to take that truth to the nations. They refused.

Did Israel fail because they were inferior to other people? No, Israel failed because they were no better than any other people (Romans 3:22-23 Romans 3:22-23 [22] Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ to all and on all them that believe: for there is no difference: [23] For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
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).

The New Covenant

After Jesus’ death, God would work through the Church, which is composed of people from all humanity (1 Peter 2:9-10 1 Peter 2:9-10 [9] But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; [10] Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
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, Ephesians 2:19-22 Ephesians 2:19-22 [19] Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; [20] And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; [21] In whom all the building fitly framed together grows to an holy temple in the Lord: [22] In whom you also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
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). Before God, physical status derived from ethnicity, gender or social standing is meaningless (Galatians 3:26-29 Galatians 3:26-29 [26] For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. [27] For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. [28] There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [29] And if you be Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
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).

Accusing the Bible, or God, of promoting racism is founded on a faulty assumption that God thinks like we do, and a misunderstanding of what God’s choosing means.

When we read our own evil ideas into His Word we insult God, and He will hold people accountable for attaching His name and reputation to worthless, vain, and deceptive ideas such as racism (Exodus 20:7 Exodus 20:7You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.
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).

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Make no mistake: Racism is a sin. God is Love (1 John 4:8,16).