Unequally Yoke?

By Not Known

The decision to put away all the pagan wives and their children in Nehemiah 13, must certainly be heartrending for those Israelite men and their families. Why did God allow this most seemingly cruel event to take place? Why didn’t He intervene to prevent the families from being broken up? Wouldn’t that be more appropriate and merciful?

In order to understand why God allowed the event to happen, we need to begin with the Israelites on the threshold of entering Canaan in Deuteronomy 7. Then, God’s command was for the Israelites to annihilate totally the Canaanites and not to intermarry with them (Deut 7:3). The reason was that marrying foreign wives will turn the Israelites away from following God to serve other gods, resulting in God’s anger burning against them and He will quickly destroy them. (Deut 7:4). (Due to space constraint, we will discuss about God’s command to destroy completely the Canaanites at another opportunity.)

The Israelites subsequently refused to obey God. They intermarried with the Canaanites, forsook God, embraced the Canaanite deities and brought about moral deterioration in their lives. God punished them and captivity ensued.

Yet the Israelites remained unrepentant when they returned from the Exile and Israel only ceased practicing intermarriage after much effort after Nehemiah returned again to Jerusalem a second time (Neh 13:6ff).

Today in Singapore, marriage is a civil institution within the setting of a secular state. Churches today would not enforce the dissolution of marriage should one member decides to marry outside the Christian faith. Yet for the Christian, marriage is more than a civil institution the state sanctions. It is for him (and her) a sacred covenant made between the man, the wife and God. It is not to be entered into lightly.

Not least the danger of serving and embracing other gods as a consequence of intermarriage is always present as experience shows us. This is especially so within the context of a multi-religious society and it also involves the whole question of bringing up the next generation in the fear and nurture of God as well.

The Apostle Paul in the New Testament reiterates: Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? (1 Cor 6:14-15). The warning against being “unequally yoked” with unbelievers is as pertinent today as in the days of ancient Israel. It is for all of us in the church to take heed as well.