Immigrants and Racism

While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman … The Lord was very angry with them, and he departed.  As the cloud moved from above the Tabernacle, there stood Miriam, her skin as white as snow from leprosy.—Numbers 12:1-10, NLT 

In one of the ugliest episodes in the story of Israel’s exodus, we discover the racism of Miriam and Aaron, the brother and sister of Moses. Although they were not exactly “white,” the color of their skin was lighter than that of Moses’ wife, Zipporah, a black Cushite. Since they felt superior to black people, they resented the fact that Moses loved such a woman, and they pulled the dagger of criticism to attack and cut him down to size.

One should not miss the undeniable fact here that Miriam and Aaron had faith in the LORD. They served as leaders of praise and worship among the Israelites. They had the valor to confront Pharaoh in the name of the LORD, risking their lives for love of their people and for their freedom. People who otherwise have great merits can fall into the sin of racism. So fell Miriam and Aaron, and Miriam became the leader of the racist persecution of Moses and Zipporah.

The LORD became infuriated. God loves all people and hates racism. The judgment God inflicted on Miriam indicates that God’s anger came against her racism, not simply as a response to her rebellion toward Moses as the anointed one of God. In response to her sin, the LORD made her white.   In effect, God said to Miriam: “You boast of being white? Okay! I’ll give you your wish and will make you still whiter. I’ll give you leprosy all over your skin.

The story continues, telling us that Miriam repented, Moses prayed for her, and the LORD healed her. Racism is not an unpardonable sin, as long as we ask forgiveness and change our minds and behaviors.

Immigrants of all races should guard their hearts and not permit the racism they may suffer to turn them into racists. Hatred for other people because of their race, ethnicity, or nationality can never find justification before God. Those who receive immigrants sometimes suffer from crimes commited by them, and some of them adopt a prejudice against all immigrants based on what one of them has done. They cannot justify becoming racists either.

The love of God never accepts racism. The people of God recognize the beauty of all who carry the divine image and likeness in human flesh. Perhaps like the parents of the immigrant Moses experienced, your own children will marry someone of another race. If it turns out that way, love God by loving their spouses.

Copyright©2013 by Joseph L. Castleberry.  All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Joseph Castleberry is president of Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington.  He is the author of The New Pilgrims:  How Immigrants are Renewing America’s Faith (forthcoming in August 2015, Worthy Publishing). Follow him on Twitter @DrCastleberry and at


Acerca de Joseph Castleberry

A missionary to Latin America for 20 years, I currently serve as president of Northwest University in Kirkland, WA. I am the author of Your Deepest Dream (NavPress, 2012); The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus (Influence Resources, 2013), and The New Pilgrims: How Immigrants are Renewing America's Faith and Values.
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