Faith…(part 1)

In Hebrews 11:8 we are told “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Faith is something you don’t want to overlook in your Christian walk. You want to please God.

Faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1 as “the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is the true foundation on which your belief in God is built. It has to be solid as a rock. You want to please God.

Is there God? Where did you come from? Yes! A sperm and an egg, where did they come from? Ok! Let us look at evolution with all its complexities.

Mind you, we stay away from The Word of God. The Beginning and The End.

The old concept of the “five races:” African, Asian, European, Native American, and Oceanian. According to this view, variation between the races is large, and thus, the each race is a separate category. Additionally, individual races are thought to have a relatively uniform genetic identity.

Evolution? Explain this…

So, how is it that we de-evolved over ‘time’? The oldest manuscripts, namely the Dead Sea Scrolls text of Samuel from the late 1st century BCE, the 1st-century CE historian Josephus, and the major Septuagint manuscripts, all give it as “four cubits and a span” (6 feet 9 inches or 2.06 metres), whereas the Masoretic Text has “six cubits and a span” (9 feet 9 inches) Yes! Much taller individuals in this day and time…

Sandra Elaine Allen was an American woman recognized by the Guinness World Records as the tallest woman in the world. She was 7 feet 7 inches tall. Allen wrote a book, Cast A Giant Shadow. Although over the years other women have taken over the title, Allen had held it for the last sixteen years of her life. 

World’s tallest man 2020:

Sultan Kösen (born 10 December 1982) is a Turkish man who holds the Guinness World Record for tallest living male at 251 centimetres (8 ft 2.82 in). Kösen’s growth resulted from the condition acromegaly, caused by a tumour affecting his pituitary gland.

We lose sight of our focus – Evolution. Medically, was it a pituitary anomaly? It throws a wrench in the socket.

Evolution has its limitations. The theory of evolution is a shortened form of the term “theory of evolution by natural selection,” which was proposed by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in the nineteenth century. So, in truth evolution had no basics for 1900 years. The same as race. Yes! There are differences in people, but one second! Are we any different within?

We are, in fact, remarkably similar. The DNA of all human beings living today is 99.9% alike. We all have roots extending back 300,000 years to the emergence of the first modern humans in Africa, and back more than 6 million years to the evolution of the earliest human species in Africa.

Many differences between individuals are undoubtedly because of differences in their genes. However, human monozygotic twins who are genetically identical may differ markedly from each other (Spector, 2012). Individuals differ, of course, because biological processes are inherently variable.

How are we similar? Basics: We have the same structures—our brains, organs, skin, and nerves. There are minor individual differences in this infrastructure, but it is basically the same. We were all born and we will all die. We must eat, drink water, eliminate wastes, and breathe.

Ok, so ‘history’, history, His-story, His-Story, God’s Word.

Any serious biblical study of race or ethnicity should start in Genesis 1. The Bible does not start off with the creation of a special or privileged race of people. When the first human being is created he is simply called adam, which is Hebrew for “humankind.” Adam and Eve are not Hebrews or Egyptians; they are neither White nor Black nor even Semitic. Their own particular ethnicity is not even mentioned, for the Bible seems to stress that they are the mother and father of all peoples of all ethnicities. Adam and Eve are presented as non-ethnic and non-national because they represent all people of all ethnicities.

In Genesis 1:26 God says, “Let Us make man (adam) in Our image, according to Our likeness.” Then 1:27 describes his creative action: “So God created man (adam) in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.”[1] The “image of God” relates to one or more of the following: 1) the mental and spiritual faculties that people share with God; 2) the appointment of humankind as God’s representatives on earth; and 3) a capacity to relate to God. Yet what is clear is that being created in “the image of God” is a spectacular blessing; it is what distinguishes people from animals. Likewise, whether or not the “image of God” in people was marred or blurred in the “Fall” of Genesis 3, it is clear that at the very least people still carry some aspect of the image of God, and this gives humankind a very special status in the creation. Furthermore, as mentioned above, Adam and Eve are ethnically generic, representing all ethnicities. Thus the Bible is very clear in declaring from the beginning that all people of all races and ethnicities carry the image of God.

This reality provides a strong starting point for our discussion of what the Bible says about race. Indeed, John Stott declares, “Both the dignity and the equality of human beings are traced in Scripture to our creation.”[2] To presuppose that one’s own race or ethnicity is superior to someone else’s is a denial of the fact that all people are created in the image of God.

The Book of Proverbs presents several practical implications from this connection between God and the people he created. For example, Proverbs 14:31a states, “The one who oppresses the poor insults their Maker.” Proverbs 17:5a echoes this teaching, “The one who mocks the poor insults his Maker.” These verses teach that those who take a superior attitude toward others due to their socio-economic position and thus oppress or mock others are in fact insulting God himself. To insult or mistreat the people God has created is an affront to him, their Creator. The same principle applies to racial prejudice. The unjustified self-establishment of superiority by one group that leads to the oppression of other groups is an affront to God. Likewise, the mocking of people God created—and this would apply directly to ethnic belittling or “racial jokes”—is a direct insult to God. All people of all ethnicities are created in the image of God. Viewing them as such and therefore treating them with dignity and respect is not just a suggestion or “good manners,” it is one of the mandates emerging out of Genesis 1 and Proverbs.

The so-called “Curse of Ham” (Genesis 9:18-27)

In regard to the history of racial prejudice in America no other passage in Scripture has been as abused, distorted and twisted as has Genesis 9:18-27. Thus it is important that we clarify what this passage actually says (and doesn’t say).

In Genesis 9:20-21, after the flood is over and his family has settled down, Noah gets drunk and passes out, lying naked in his tent. His son Ham, specifically identified as the father of Canaan (9:22), sees him and tells his two brothers Shem and Japheth, who then carefully cover up their father. When Noah wakes up and finds out what happened he pronounces a curse on Canaan, the son of Ham, stating, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” Noah then blesses Shem and Japheth, declaring, “Blessed be the LORD of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth. . . and may Canaan be his slave” (9:26-27).

In the 19th century, both before and after the Civil War, this text was frequently cited by Whites to argue that the slavery or subjugation of the black races was, in fact, a fulfillment of the prophecy in this text. These pastors and writers argued that 1) the word “Ham” really means “black” or “burnt,” and thus refers to the Black race; and 2) God commanded that the descendants of Ham (Black people) become slaves to Japheth, who, they argued, represents the White races.[3]

It should be stated clearly and unambiguously that every reputable evangelical Old Testament scholar that I know of views this understanding of Genesis 9:18-27 as ridiculous, even ludicrous. It is completely indefensible on biblical grounds.

First of all, note that the curse is placed on Canaan and not on Ham (Gen. 9:25). To project the curse to all of Ham’s descendants is to misread the passage. It is Canaan (and the Canaanites) who are the focus of this curse. This text is a prophetic curse on Israel’s future enemy and nemesis, the Canaanites. The Canaanites are included here in this prophetic curse because they are characterized by similar sexual-related sins elsewhere in the Pentateuch (see Lev. 18:2-23 for example). The curse on Canaan is not pronounced because Canaan is going to be punished for Ham’s sin, but because the descendants of Canaan (the Canaanites) will be like Ham in their sin and sexual misconduct.

Furthermore, it is wildly speculative to assume that the name Ham actually means “black” and thus refers to the people in Black Africa. There is an ancient Egyptian word keme that means “the black land,” a reference to the land of Egypt and to the dark fertile soil associated with Egypt.  Yet to assume that the Hebrew name Ham is even connected at all to this Egyptian word is questionable. Then even if it is, to say that “the black land,” a reference to fertile soil, is actually a reference to Black races in Africa is likewise quite a leap in logic. Thus the etymological argument that “Ham” refers to the Black peoples of Africa is not defensible. Likewise, as mentioned above, the actual curse is on Canaan, who is clearly identified as the son of Ham. Thus the curse is placed on the Canaanites and not on the supposed (and unlikely) descendants of Ham in Black Africa.

This passage finds fulfillment later in Israel’s history during the conquest of the Promised Land when the Israelites defeat and subjugate the Canaanites. It has absolutely nothing to do with Black Africa or the subjugation of Black peoples. Such an interpretation seriously distorts and twists the meaning of this passage.

The ethnic composition of biblical Israel

Using cultural and geographical “boundary markers” such as language, territory, religion, dress, appearance, and ancestor origins, the ancient peoples in the regions in and around ancient Israel can be split up into four major ethnic groups: 1) the Asiatics or Semites (including the Israelites, Canaanites, Amorites, Arameans, etc.); 2) the Cushites (Black Africans living along the Nile River south of Egypt; also referred to as Nubians or Ethiopians, although they are not connected to modern Ethiopia); 3) the Egyptians (a mix of Asiatic, north African, and African elements), and 4) Indo-Europeans (Hittites, Philistines). 

Ancient Israel develops from within the Asiatic/Semitic group of peoples, although several of the other groups have significant input. Note that Israel is not mentioned in Genesis 10 as one of the ancient peoples. When God first calls Abraham, he is living in Ur of the Chaldees, an Amorite region of Mesopotamia. Yet later in the Bible, Abraham is most closely associated with the Arameans (Gen. 24:4; 28:5; Deut. 26:5). While both Abraham’s son Isaac and grandson Jacob marry Aramean women, the next generation also marries Canaanites (Judah, Gen. 38:2; Simeon, Gen. 46:10) and Egyptians (Joseph, Gen. 41:50).

Thus at the dawning of the Israelite nation, the descendants of Abraham are a mix of Western Mesopotamian (Aramean and/or Amorite), Canaanite, and Egyptian elements, and looked very much like the Semitic peoples of the Middle East today, such as modern Arabs and Israelis.

It is during the 400 plus year sojourn in Egypt that the family of Abraham develops linguistically and culturally into an identifiable Israelite people. Yet even then, in terms of ethnicity they are hardly monolithic. In addition to the various ethnic streams that influence the formation of the Israelite nation during the patriarchal period, numerous other ethnic influences continued to shape the formation of Israel. For example, when God delivers Israel from Egypt, the Bible mentions that “an ethnically diverse crowd went up with them” (Exod. 12:38). This term indicates that the group Moses leads out of Egypt and into covenant relationship with God is an ethnically diverse group. The majority of them are probably descendants of Abraham but many of them are not. 

At this particular time in Egypt’s history, there are numerous Cushites (Black Africans) living in Egypt, at all levels of society. In all likelihood some of these Africans are part of the “ethnically diverse crowd” that comes out of Egypt and joins Israel. During the exodus Moses will marry one of these Cushites (see below). Likewise, the name of Moses’ great nephew Phinehas, a very prominent priest, suggests a connection with the Cushites. Phinehas’ name is an Egyptian name. The Egyptians referred to the Black African inhabitants of Cush by the ethnic term nehsiu. In Egyptian the prefix “ph” functions like a definite article, so the name “Phinehas” literally means “the Cushite” or “the African,” that is, one of the Black Africans living in Cush.

Moses and inter-ethnic marriage

In the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy the central character, apart from God, is Moses. Appointed by God as Israel’s leader and mediator between God and the people, Moses dominates the human side of the story. Interestingly, the biblical story includes quite a bit of personal information about Moses, even specifically mentioning his two inter-ethnic marriages. Keep in mind that at this time in Israel’s history the norm of monogamous marriage had not yet been established. Recall that even later in history King David will have seven wives, apparently with God’s approval.

Early in Moses’ life he flees from Egypt to Midian, where he meets and marries Zipporah, a Midian woman (Exodus 2).  The Midianites are a Semitic-speaking people, ethnic cousins to the Israelites. What is surprising about this marriage is that the Midianites worship Baal. In fact, Reuel, Zipporah’s father, is a priest of Midian (Exod. 2:15-22; Num. 25). At this stage of his life Moses is not serving God yet, and there is no indication that God approves of this marriage. Indeed, later in Numbers 25 the Midianites will appear as a deadly and dangerous theological enemy of Israel who threaten to undermine the theological and ethical faithfulness of Israel to God.

Later in his life, however, while Moses is faithfully leading Israel and serving God, he marries a Cushite woman (Num. 12:1). In the past, some scholars, perhaps bothered by Moses’ marriage to a Black African woman, tried to argue that this woman is actually Zipporah the Midianite. Such an argument is quite weak, however. The Cushites are well-known in the OT and there is nothing ambiguous about their identity or their ethnicity. Moses marries a Black African woman; there is no doubt about this.[4]

Yet what of the biblical injunctions against inter-ethnic marriage? Is Moses violating these commandments? Not at all. In the Pentateuch the prohibition against inter-marrying with other groups always specifically refers to the pagan inhabitants of Canaan (Deut. 7:1-4). The reason for this prohibition is theological. If they intermarry with these pagan peoples, God warns, “they will turn your sons away from me to worship other gods” (Deut. 7:4; see also Exod. 34:15-16). Underscoring this distinction is Deuteronomy 21:10-14, which describes the procedure for how the Israelites are to marry foreign women, a practice that was allowed if the women are from cities that are outside that land; that is, not Canaanite. Later in Israel’s history, Ezra and Nehemiah will reissue the prohibition against intermarriage (Ezra 9:1; Neh. 13:23-27), but once again the context is that of marrying outside the faith. Both Ezra and Nehemiah seem to stress that earlier intermarriages (especially Solomon’s) played a negative role in Israel’s apostasy and idolatry.

The implications of Moses’ marriage to a Cushite woman are significant.  Moses is one of the leading figures in the OT. As the story unfolds in Numbers 12:1-16 it is clear that God approves of this marriage, for he rebukes Miriam and Aaron for opposing it, and he then strongly reaffirms Moses as his chosen leader. Thus early in Israel’s story we find one of Israel’s most faithful leaders intermarrying with a Black African woman while serving God faithfully.

The conclusion we can draw from these Scripture passages is that interracial marriage is strongly affirmed by Scripture, if the marriage is within the faith. Marriage outside of the faith, however, is prohibited.

The Cushite Ebed-Melech: Hero and representative of gentile inclusion

Ebed-Melech the Cushite plays a key role in the Book of Jeremiah, both historically and theologically. Jeremiah the prophet preaches for years against the sinful actions of the leaders and the people in Judah, but meets only with rejection and hostility. As Jeremiah has predicted, the Babylonian army invades and lays siege to Jerusalem (Jeremiah 38-39). The leaders in Jerusalem, rather than listening to Jeremiah, instead accuse him of treason, and lower him down into a muddy water cistern, ostensibly to let him die there. At this point in the story, no one in Jerusalem believes the word of God spoken by Jeremiah or stands up for him. His message is ignored and he is left to die in the cistern as the Babylonian siege rages.

An unlikely hero emerges at this point. A man named Ebed-Melech, identified repeatedly as a Cushite (i.e. a Black African from the region along the Nile south of Egypt), confronts King Zedekiah and obtains permission to rescue Jeremiah from the cistern, probably saving the prophet’s life. Soon Jerusalem falls to the Babylonians, who then execute most of the leaders who had opposed and persecuted Jeremiah. At this point God makes a clear statement about the fact that Ebed-Melech will live and be delivered because of his trust in God (Jer. 39:15-18).

In essence God does for Ebed-Melech precisely what he would not do for King Zedekiah and the other leaders of Jerusalem—save him from the Babylonians. The contrast is stark, and in this context Ebed-Melech plays an important theological role in the story. At a time when all of Jerusalem has rejected the word of God—thus falling under his judgment—this Cushite foreigner trusts in God and finds deliverance. Ebed-Melech, a Black African, stands as a representative for those Gentiles who will be incorporated into the people of God by faith.  

There is a tendency among White Christians to view the biblical story as primarily a story about them (White people), with people of other ethnicities either absent from the story or added on peripherally later in the story. In reality, the story of Israel is a multi-ethnic story. The ancient Hebrews are a mix of ethnicities, with continual influxes of other nationalities. At the center of this trend is Moses’ marriage to a Cushite woman. Likewise, at a very critical juncture in the story, it is the Cushite Ebed-Melech who emerges as the example and representative of the future inclusion of Gentiles who will be added to the people of God based on faith.

The Gospels and Acts: Crossing ethnic lines with the Gospel

One of the central themes introduced in the Gospels and brought to the forefront of the story in Acts is that the gospel is for all peoples and ethnicities. There are numerous allusions in the Gospels to the Abrahamic promise in Genesis regarding the blessings that will come through Abraham and his descendants to peoples and nations (Gen. 12:3; 22:18). Likewise the Gospel of Matthew closes with the Lord’s command to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). Also significant is the observation that Matthew 1 includes several inter-ethnic marriages in the genealogy of Jesus. Tamar and Ruth were Canaanites, while Ruth was a Moabitess. The ethnicity of Bathsheba is not known, but she was married to a Hittite named Uriah, so possibly she was also a Hittite. The point of mentioning these foreign women in the genealogy of Jesus is to highlight the mixed nature of Jesus’ lineage, suggesting and alluding to the upcoming Gentile mission and speaking to the readers of their responsibility to cross cultural and ethnic boundaries to spread the gospel.[5]

Luke and Acts in particular are especially concerned with developing this theme of Gentile inclusion and the crossing (or obliterating) of cultural or ethnic boundaries between peoples with the gospel. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), for example, Jesus teaches that loving your neighbor as yourself means loving those in particular who are different than you ethnically. That is his point in using the ethnically explosive Judean-Samaritan situation for the background of his parable. At this time the Judeans and Samaritans hate each other and ethnic tensions between them are high. Yet Jesus tells the story to a Judean audience with the Samaritan as the hero, clearly teaching his audience that “loving one’s neighbor” meant crossing ethnic lines and caring for those who were ethnically different. Jesus also explicitly mentions crossing this same ethnic and cultural boundary in his marching orders to his disciples in Acts 1:8, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.”

Published by Fellowship of Praise: ALL praise to God our Reason, Hallelujah!!!

To God be The glory. Let us praise God together for His ALL in our lives, Amen.

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