“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
I Samuel 16:7
Being Jewish, my relationship to graven images has been vicariously lived out through my gentile Christian counterparts. My one friend’s grandmother always believed that Jesus spoke English, because that’s the language her Bible was written in. Another friend (who mistakenly drank the holy water in Rome thinking the font was a public water fountain) balked when she babysat for an African American Catholic family who had a black Jesus crucifix in their kitchen. Of course, most folks with a basic understanding of Biblical geography can reason that Jesus wasn’t the blonde haired, blue-eyed guy they stared at every week in Sunday school, but thanks to a lot of abuse on the part of religious leaders throughout the centuries, our culture still has a hard time comprehending exactly how “racially cool” God really is.
Take these examples of racial and ethnic diversity in scripture listed by the American Bible Society:
- Asenath, daughter of Potiphera, priest of On (Heliopolis), wife of Joseph and mother of Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 41:45, 51, 52; 46:20), whom Jacob claimed and adopted. (Genesis 48).
- Moses’ Cushite wife (Numbers 12:1). She was probably Zipporah of the Kenite clan of the Midianites (Exodus 2:21-23). If Moses’ Cushite wife is indeed Zipporah, then her father, Jethro, (also called Reuel), would also have been an African. Since Jethro was the priest of Midian (Exodus 2:16; 3:1; 18:1) and the mountain of God where Moses was called was located in Midian (Exodus 3:1; 18:5), and Jethro presided at a meal where Aaron and the elders of Israel were guests (Exodus 18:12), the Kenites may have been the original worshipers of God by the name of the LORD, that is Yahweh (YHWH). Jethro also instructed Moses in the governance of the newly liberated Israelites (Exodus 8:13-27).
- The “mixed multitude that accompanied the Israelites when they left Egypt undoubtedly included various Africans and Asian peoples (Exodus 12:38).
- The unnamed Cushite soldier in David’s army. He bore the news of Absalom’s death to David, and, in contrast to Ahimaaz, had the courage to tell David the truth about Absalom (2 Samuel 18:21, 31, 32).
- Solomon’s Egyptian wife. She was an Egyptian princess and by his marriage to her, Solomon sealed an alliance with Egypt. (1 Kings 3:1; 11:1).
- The Queen of Sheba. She ruled a kingdom that included territory in both Arabia and Africa. When she visited Solomon, she was accorded the dignity and status of a head of state (1 Kings 10:1-13).