There’s a lot being said about racism and race right now. Have you ever wondered what the Bible says about race? Who is listed in the Bible as the first black man or woman? I hope to have a full sermon on “Race” before too long, but this blog is a good starting point.
The surprising answer actually is that Scripture says amazingly little about our skin color. God is not so fascinated with the color of your skin as much as he is concerned that you and I repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ (or as I say, Yeshua) as our Savior and Redeemer.
There are some possible indications of race in the Bible – but it’s simply not the Bible’s focus. Actually one of the best things Martin Luther King once said was that we should not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the condition of our heart, our CHARACTER. He was so right about that. That seems to be the focus of the Bible as well.
In any case, all the races came from God, through Adam and Eve, and so for them to produce white, brown, and black descendants, they were most likely a tanned or brown couple themselves. Ok white folks, does that surprise you?
I find it interesting that in his spirit form, the one we know as the Son of God is described as being in the color of “bronze” or “brass” as when refined in a furnace. That’s not white. That’s not black. Bronze is more of a brownish hue/a golden hue. “Brass” on the other hand, can range in color from almost a reddish color to yellowish golden color and everything in between, depending on how much zinc was added to the metal. But “brass” is generally usually thought of as a brownish or even golden color.
Here's the scripture describing Yeshua in his current spirit form (ask yourself if this is the way YOU picture Jesus. It doesn’t seem to describe the popular paintings of “Jesus”):
“Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands,
13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.
14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters.”
NIV says “his feet were like bronze …”
CJB “like burnished brass refined in a furnace…”
Now back to the human race. It’s been said many times before, we are all of one race – the human race. And Paul says we all have the same blood; we all bleed red. Notice where Paul focuses: not on race but on us finding God.
Acts 17:26-28 NKJV
“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.'
Some translations don’t say “from one blood” but “from one man”, but I do like my NKJV and KJV on this.
The first black person directly alluded to was probably Cush, the grandson of Noah. Cush was the son of Ham. The “Hamitic” people are generally seen as the black race – and includes the areas of Sudan and south, and what is called “Ethiopia” in the Bible. Sons of Ham included Cush, Canaan, Put and Mitzraim (Egypt). The ancient Egyptians were more black than modern Egyptians, whose blood lines have been mixed quite heavily with Muslim race from Ishmael and others.
There are notable righteous and notable evil men and women of all races in the Bible. The Bible mentions their name but does not make a big deal of their race. One of the notable evil black men was Nimrod, a descendant of Cush, who led the world into apostasy and mystery religion.
Some notable righteous black people in the Bible include the Ethiopian eunuch who was baptized by Philip in Acts 8. This eunuch was a very high official in his courts. The Bible does not say he was “black” – but was Ethiopian, so very likely was of the black race. The Bible does not make a big deal of one’s color.
Another great example for us was Rahab, the woman of faith from Jericho who converted to the God of Israel and was spared (the story is in Joshua 2 and chapter 6). Being a Canaanite, she could have also been of the black race. What was notable: her powerful faith and how she turned to one true God. She is also included in the lineage of the Messiah Yeshua (Matthew 1:5)! So how’s that for showing God is not racist?
In several places in the Bible where we read “Ethiopia” – it really is “Cush”, the name of their forefather, and refers to Nubians, north Sudan, and the black race. So “Ethiopian” is usually actually “Cushite”. In Jeremiah 13:23 we’re asked, “Can the Ethiopian (Cushite) change his skin?”. To me that tells me the reference is to black skin.
Moses had also married a Cushite wife (Numbers 12:1 NIV), and so one of Moses’ wives was a black woman. Some believe she was a black princess, whom Moses married when he was a great general for Egypt in his younger years.
“Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian (Cushite) woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman.”
When this became an issue for Miriam especially, who is listed first here, God made clear to her that He had chosen Moses as his prophet and Miriam was struck with leprosy. Moses’ black-skinned wife was not an issue apparently with YHVH. This matter never came up again.
Today we know Ethiopians and other black runners are fast runners and win many Olympics, whether in sprints or long distance. Read Isaiah 18:1-2 where they are called “swift messengers” even back then.
It’s also possible that one of the early leaders of the church in Antioch could have been a black man – Simon (or Simeon), surnamed Niger. Acts 13:1-3. Many believe his surname was an indication of his skin color – but again, it’s not so clearly stated. Some think this may have been the same man called Simon of Cyrene who was ordered to carry Yeshua’s cross (Luke 23:26); but there’s no strong evidence for that. But it is interesting as you carefully read Acts 13:1-3 to see such a diverse group of leaders from all over the known world working together as they allowed themselves to be led by God’s spirit.
Having said all this, we should not be quick to accuse someone of being racist for calling out some inequities by some groups. For example, because I’m white, I’m being called – by some movements – a “racist” for simply being white. That accusation itself becomes a racist statement.
We should all be careful to avoid making monolithic judgments about groups of people or races where we funnel all people of a particular group or race into one bucket. I think many are doing that very thing as we make broad brush statements about parts of the country, or races, or national groups – whether Japanese, Chinese, Africans, or “whites” or whatever.
My brothers and sisters, let’s all repent of any racism we do discover in our lives. I’m doing my own introspection. Will you join me?
Bottom line: What does God’s word say about race? Actually very little. It’s not a big deal with God. God created us all. God created the races. God loves us all. God’s son died for us all. To God, ALL human life is valuable, and race and skin color just doesn’t come up as an issue for God.
Individuals do count to God – of whatever race – if we live righteously or in an evil way. That’s what counts – how we live. He wants each of us to come to repentance and receive God’s holy spirit – which He’ll supply to anyone he is calling who responds to his call.
If, when you’re honest with yourself, you find yourself disliking whole races of people or groups of people, then I call on you to repent of that racism and get more in harmony with God’s mind.
Our God simply does not want us making skin color an issue. Let’s get over it, if it is an issue – and move on as one family under God. We are to love and pray for all people – even our enemies, so certainly we can all pray for one another.