A Curious Command

“So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him: ‘Do not marry a Canaanite woman.’”—Genesis 28:1 (NIV)

Is Isaac racist? Why would he instruct Jacob not to marry a Canaanite woman? Well, I can tell you it had nothing to do with race, skin color, or ethnicity. It was about faith. The Canaanites didn’t follow the God who made a covenant with Abraham saying “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” (Genesis 22:18 NIV).

It’s widely accepted that Esau, who had married a Canaanite woman, was an idolater. Imagine that . . . The man raised by the promised son of Abraham didn’t believe in the God of his fathers. He worshipped the gods of his wife’s culture.

I hope you see where I’m going here. Having nothing to do with color, race, or nationality (Rahab the Canaanite and Ruth the Moabite, who both placed their faith in God, attest to this), it was the intermarrying of faith that Jacob—through whom the nation of Israel and the promised Messiah was to come—was instructed to avoid.

Now, you may be wondering, Why is that such a problem? Let me say this with as much tenderness as I can: If you have to ask that question, either a) you’ve never dated or married someone from a different faith as you, or b) faith is not an important part of your life.

From past experience, I can tell you it leads to two things: conflict and compromise. When I was serious with a girl in college whose beliefs were different than mine, we fought about how we’d potentially raise our kids. I wanted to raise them knowing Jesus and being discipled. She thought that was pointless and pushy. It was an issue for a while, until it wasn’t, because it led me to compromise.

For almost a year, I completely disconnected from my relationship with the Lord. After the initial instances of fighting, I just let it all go for her. I didn’t go to church, read the Bible, pray, or live according to Scripture. I lost my virginity to a girl who treated intimacy as a trivial thing. I, a lifelong Christian who had planned to go into ministry, had walked away from Christ and my calling. And even after we broke up, it took me several months before I repented and came back to Jesus.

Friends, in 2 Corinthians 6:14 (NASB), Paul instructs us, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.” I can tell you there’s nothing but hardship and heartbreak at the end of that road. The Israelites in the Old Testament can attest to this, as they constantly fell into idolatry and wickedness because of belief-based intermarrying.

DIG: Why is being “unequally yoked” with unbelievers such a dangerous thing?

DISCOVER: Why do commands like this in the Bible ruffle so many feathers and upset so many people?

DO: Are there any areas of compromise in your life right now? Whether it has to do with a significant other/spouse, friendships, family situation, work or school environment, or anything else, compromise in the life of a believer will lead to catastrophe and often serious consequences. Repent now! Ask the Lord to help you align your heart and mind to His in this area. Seek His guidance in how you can “say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:12–14 NIV).

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.