When Moses married an Ethiopian woman, the local 'White
Citizen's Council' grumbled. God indulged in a little 'symbolic speech' to set them straight:
"Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he
had married an Ethiopian woman...So the anger of the LORD was aroused against them, and He departed.
And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as
white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper. So Aaron said to Moses,
'Oh, my lord! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have
sinned.'" (Numbers 12:1-11).
God having made His feelings about white racists plain,
where do the atheists get their information that the Bible teaches blacks are inferior to whites?
From Bible interpretations that don't pass the straight-face test, like the 'mark of Cain'!
Acquired characteristics are not passed on to offspring; so why would an acquired characteristic
like the 'mark of Cain' be passed on to Cain's descendants at all? The Bible says nothing about
Cain's descendants inheriting the 'mark', which was placed on Cain to protect him from vengeance; why
his descendants would need such protection is far from obvious: "Then the LORD said to him, 'Not so!
Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.' And the LORD put a mark on Cain, so
that no one who came upon him would kill him." (Genesis 4:15). If Cain was not born with this
characteristic - and he was not — then in the ordinary course of nature, his descendants would
not inherit it. While God could certainly change Cain's genetic make-up if He willed the 'mark' to
be inherited, where in the text does it suggest He wished to do so?
Even if the 'mark of Cain' were imagined to be heritable
versus 'a tattoo', where does the text even hint that the 'mark' is 'black complexion', versus 'a
birthmark shaped like the State of Utah', or 'red hair', or an 'epicanthic fold'? Nor is the 'mark'
placed on Cain to mark him out for ill-treatment, but rather precisely to protect him from
ill-treatment. Reassembling the atheist/racist house of cards for the moment, if we were to allow
the speculation that the 'mark of Cain' were heritable, and that the 'mark of Cain' were black
skin, and that the 'mark of Cain' was intended to mark its possessor out for ill-treatment, then why
would only one of Noah's sons have inherited this character? One commonly expects brothers to be of
the same race, not different ones. Who, of the eight persons saved
aboard the ark, from whom all subsequent humanity trace their ancestry,
was a descendent of Canaan? If one of the wives of Noah's sons is
imagined to be a descendent of Cain, then realize that the same cannot
be said of her sons, because descent is reckoned patrilineally. There is
no descendent of Cain who disembarked from the ark. This 'Bible argument
implodes upon itself.
Noah uttered a curse against Canaan, the ancestor of the idolatrous
nation displaced by Israel. . .which racist interpreters transform into a
curse upon Africans, by displacing it back a generation, to Ham: ". . .he
said, 'Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.'"
(Genesis 9:25). This interpretive approach goes back to a medieval Kabbalist named Isaac ben Judah Abravanel, and like most Kabbalistic
interpretation, it makes no effort to connect with the text. Relations
between the numerous Alexandrian Jews and the ethnic Egyptians,
descendants of Ham, having been toxic for a very long time, it may be that
some interpreters transferred the curse onto those they wished had been
cursed; but the Bible is not silly putty.
The Southern racists who defended slavery claimed that black
Africans were descended from Canaan. Southern doctor Samuel
Cartwright had 'discovered' a new disease, drapetomania, an
obviously pathological longing for freedom on the part of Southern
blacks. He justified this new diagnosis by a resort to the Bible:
"Lest anyone doubt that drapetomania was a real
disease — and, evidently, some Northern doctors did —
Cartwright offered proof. First of all, he said, we know that
Negroes are descended from the people of Canaan, a name that
means 'submissive knee-benders.'" (The Book of Woe, Gary
Greenberg, p. 2).
It is linguistically absurd to trace African languages to a Semitic original, nor is it Biblical. It is typical
of what atheists consider to be a stellar Bible argument: it
mentions some name or place also mentioned in the Bible, but then
proceeds to say something about it quite different from what the
Bible says. Biblically, African blacks are, as it happens, not descended from Canaan. Cush, black
Africa, was also a son of Ham, but this is not the nation Noah cursed.
The Egyptians, who held Israel in slavery until the LORD liberated them,
were also Ham's descendants: "Then Israel came to Egypt, Jacob lived as
an alien in the land of Ham." (Psalm 105:23). The Egyptians, descendants
of Ham, enslaved Israel, but were never enslaved by them. For the
racists' purposes, the wrong nation was cursed; it ought to have been
The handsprings and somersaults which the racists must perform are not over yet; Noah's
intention was plainly to wish catastrophe on his grand-son, but they
wish him to have stated rather that the institution of slavery is
natural and benign. And so he does not curse Canaan from any motive of
vengeance, but rather speaks as God's mouth-piece, uttering God's
perfect will, not his own wishes: "In this transaction, Noah acts as an
inspired prophet, and also as the divinely chosen, patriarchal head of
church and state, which were then confined to his own family." (Robert
Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1205).
It is true that God would not enacted Noah's curse had it offended His
sense of justice. In this author's peculiar method of analysis, the fact that God did
punish these people, the Canaanites, with dispossession from the holy
land, is proof that slavery is right "in itself:" "But this inquiry is
not essential to our argument, is found where God has authorized
domestic slavery, the principle is settled, that it cannot necessarily
be sin in itself." (Dabney, Robert Lewis. Dabney's Defense of Virginia
and the South, Annotated. (Kindle Locations 1236-1237). Booker House
Publishing, Incorporated.) Certainly God, the righteous judge of all the
world, has the right to enact punishments as He sees fit, employing for
the purpose such instruments as the murderous Assyrian hordes.
It would be strange indeed if this circumstance made mass murder
righteous "in itself." In the listing of punishments to which
Israel may be subject in Deuteronomy 28, this one is indeed included: "You shall beget sons and daughters, but they shall not be yours; for they shall go into captivity."
(Deuteronomy 28:41). The yoke of iron is something that can happen to
the disobedient, but this fact is no license to try it at home for yourself,
on your harmless neighbors. Why not strangle them, or starve them. Why anyone would take a threat of God's wrath as a
blanket permission for private parties to act this way at their own
discretion, to any objects they see fit, is a mystery.
Why did Noah curse Canaan instead of Ham, the offender? The
sectarians who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls speculated, it was
because God's blessing of Noah and his three sons was irrevocable: "And he
did not curse Ham, but rather his son, because God had already
blessed the sons of Noah." (The Dead Sea Scrolls, Michael Wise,
Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook, Commentaries on Genesis, p.
276). According to the Bible, eight souls were rescued by the ark: ".
. .who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water."
(1 Peter 3:20). The eight were Noah, his wife, their three sons, and
their wives. God specifically granted His gracious favor to those
living creatures carried on the ark: "And God blessed Noah and his
sons. . .And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,
And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed
after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the
fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from
all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth." (Genesis
9:1-10). It may be that Noah realized it was futile to curse one
whom God had blessed. Or he may not have wished to do so, aiming more
for poetic justice. Noah, disappointed in his hopes for one of his
sons, wishes the same misfortune upon Ham, not a different one: one
of Ham's sons will not live up to the lively hopes his father placed
upon him. Whatever the reason, the racists cannot rescind it after the
fact. The fabled 'Curse of Ham' is simply not found in the Bible, it
is an invention of the racists: Ham was never cursed, not by God, not by
Noah. The small nation which Noah did curse supplied none of the
slaves brought to America.
Another verse atheists advance to claim the Bible teaches
racism is Nehemiah 13:3, "Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from
Israel all the mixed multitude." Of course, northern Europeans were as much part of Nehemiah's
"mixed" multitude as any African would have been!: "When the people heard the law, they separated from
Israel all those of foreign descent." (Nehemiah 13:3 NRSV).
God had instructed His chosen people not to form marriages
with the pagans surrounding them, on grounds that this would put a snare and temptation in their way
to corrupt the worship of the true and living God with paganish practices: "Do not intermarry with
them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for that would turn
away your children from following me, to serve other gods."
(Deuteronomy 7:3-4); "And you will
take wives from among their daughters for your sons, and their daughters who prostitute themselves
to their gods will make your sons also prostitute themselves to their gods."
(Exodus 34:16). Often enough they defied God's
instructions, and just what He predicted happened: worship of
foreign gods was introduced to the people of Israel. The infamous Jezebel was only
following the religion she'd been taught as a child when she introduced Baal-worship to Israel: "And as
if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, he took as his wife
Jezebel daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians,
and went and served Baal, and worshipped him." (1 Kings 16:31).
This isn't a question of 'race', because those foreigners who chose to cleave to the God of Israel
were welcomed: "But Ruth said, 'Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where
you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my
God. Where you die, I will die -- there will I be buried. May the LORD do thus and so to me, and
more as well, if even death parts me from you!" (Ruth 1:16-17). Ruth, of Moabite racial
origin, is in the family tree of King David: "...and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed
the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David." (Matthew 1:5-6).
Is there even a loose analogy between God's election of
nation Israel and the racist's claim of superiority of whites over blacks? No; nation Israel was
not chosen to be a "kingdom of priests" because they were superior to the other nations.
Quite to the contrary, God rubs their noses in how inconsequential they were: "It was not
because you were more numerous than any other people that the LORD set his heart on you and chose
you -- for you were the fewest of all peoples." (Deuteronomy 7:7). Far from stressing the
innate superiority of the Jews, the Bible stresses their pitiful state versus God's great mercy in
choosing them for His own: "No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you out of compassion
for you; but you were thrown out in the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born.
I passed by you, and saw you flailing about in your blood. As you lay in your blood, I said to
you, 'Live!...'" (Ezekiel 16:5-6).
This is a recurring theme of scripture; God's election is not
of the elder but of the younger, not of the strong but of the weak, not of the superior but of the
inferior: "Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God's purpose of
election might continue, not by works but by his call) she was told, 'The elder shall serve the
younger.'" (Romans 9:11-12).
There was no racial segregation in the early church.
Believers were united in one body: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor
free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
(Galatians 3:28). One of
the first Gentile converts to Christianity was an Ethiopian: "So he arose and went. And behold, a man
of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge
of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot,
he was reading Isaiah the prophet...Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And
the eunuch said, 'See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?'...So he commanded the
chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized
him." (Acts 8:27-38). There was a flourishing Christian church in Ethiopia while the savages of
northern Europe were dancing around sacred trees. If North African church fathers Tertullian,
Cyprian, Augustine, and Victor, Bishop of Rome, had all boarded a time machine and tried to hop on a
bus in the American Southland in the 1950's, they'd have been obliged to go to the back of the bus.
Their precise ethnic affinities are in dispute but
what is certain is that none of these gentlemen would have looked like Heidi.
What does the Bible teach on these matters? Are the various tribes of
humanity different by creation, or are we all of one lineage, both as to
spiritual paternity and human descent?: