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Why did Abraham forbid his servant to take a wife from among the Canaanites?

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3 that I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, 4 but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac"(Gen. 23:3-4).

Kinists argue that this text proves that the Bible forbids interracial marriage. Yet, as usual, the historic commentaries on this passage flatly contradict such a reading. First, we will look at the commentaries on v. 3:

Albert Barnes:

"Not of the daughters of the Kenaanite," a race sinking fast into ungodliness and unrighteousness, doomed to extirpation, to whom the promised seed is to succeed. The kindred of Abraham were Shemites, Hebrews, and still retained some knowledge of the true God, and some reverence for him and his will. The experienced elder of Abraham's house does not wish to bind himself by an oath to what it may be impossible to fulfill. He makes the supposition of the unwillingness of the bride whom he may select, and obtains a quittance from his oath in that ease.

Adam Clarke:

"Because these had already been devoted to slavery, etc., and it would have been utterly inconsistent as well with prudence as with the design of God to have united the child and heir of the promise with one who was under a curse, though that curse might be considered to be only of a political nature"

John Gill:

that thou wilt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; these being not only idolaters, and very wicked people, degenerated yet more and more, but were the seed of the accursed Canaan; and who in process of time would be dispossessed of the land, and be destroyed. Now though Isaac was forty years of age, and one would think at an age sufficient to have chosen a wife for himself; but as Abraham knew that he had a great respect for this servant, and would be influenced by him in such a choice, and especially as this affair was now about to be committed to his care, and no doubt with the consent of Isaac, therefore he thus charges and adjures him.

The Jameson-Fausset commentary interprets the text as a cultural tendency of Asiatic, tribal peoples:

Among pastoral tribes the matrimonial arrangements are made by the parents, and a youth must marry, not among strangers, but in his own tribe—custom giving him a claim, which is seldom or never resisted, to the hand of his first cousin. But Abraham had a far higher motive—a fear lest, if his son married into a Canaanitish family, he might be gradually led away from the true God.

Next, v. 4:

"It seems that, in the choice of the place, Abraham was influenced by the thought, that a wife would more willingly come from thence to be married to his son, when she knew that she was to marry one of her own race and country"(Calvin).

Calvin speculates that the reason may have been because a woman of the same race would have been more willing to marry Abraham. Yet his language is clearly speculative, and he does not utter a word about the supposed impropriety of doing so. He is simply speculating about Abraham's possible motives for forbidding marriage to a Canaanite.

John Gill:

and take a wife to my son Isaac; from among them, who though they were not clear of superstition and idolatry, yet they worshipped the true God with their "idols"; and a woman taken out of such a family, and removed at a distance from it, it might be reasonably concluded would be brought off of those things, and adhere to the pure and undefiled religion; and the rather this family was chosen, not only because related to Abraham, but because it had sprung from Shem, who was blessed of God, and whose God the Lord was; nearness of kin was no objection and hinderance to such a marriage, the laws relating to marriage not being given till the time of Moses.

The Geneva Study Bible:

"He did not want his son to marry out of the godly family: for the problems that come from marrying the ungodly are set forth in various places throughout the scriptures."

It is clear from the historic commentators that the prohibition of finding a wife among the Canaanites and the injunction to find one from among his own people has primary reference to the ungodly character of the Canaanites, and God's promise of the land to Abraham's offspring, the descendants of whose current inhabitants were to be uprooted.

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