▪ God’s Law to the nation of Israel included this command concerning the people of the nations around them: “You must form no marriage alliance with them. Your daughter you must not give to his son, and his daughter you must not take for your son.” (Deuteronomy 7:3, 4) What was the reason for such a prohibition?
On the broad scale, Jehovah knew that Satan wanted to corrupt His people by turning them to the worship of false gods. God thus went on to warn that the unbelievers “will turn your son from following me, and they will certainly serve other gods.” A lot was at stake here. If the nation of Israel fell to serving other gods, they would lose God’s favor and protection, becoming easy prey to their enemies. How, then, could the nation produce the promised Messiah? Clearly, Satan had reason to lure the Israelites into marrying unbelievers.
On a smaller scale, remember that God cared about his people as individuals. He knew that the happiness and welfare of each one of them depended on their having a close relationship with him as their God. Was Jehovah’s concern about the dangerous influence of an unbelieving mate well-founded? Consider the example of King Solomon. He knew Jehovah’s warning about unbelieving wives: “They will incline your heart to follow their gods.” Because he was an outstandingly wise man, perhaps he had come to feel that he was above God’s counsel, that it did not apply to him. He ignored it. With what result? “His wives gradually inclined his heart . . . to follow other gods.” What a tragedy! Solomon himself lost Jehovah’s favor, and his people were severely divided because of his unfaithfulness.—1 Kings 11:2-4, 9-13.
Some might reason that there were exceptions. For example, the Israelite Mahlon married the Moabitess Ruth, and she became an outstanding believer. But marrying Moabite women was a risky choice. Mahlon is not commended for marrying a Moabite girl; he died young, likely even before Ruth called Jehovah her God. Mahlon’s brother, Chilion, married the Moabitess Orpah, who remained attached to “her gods.” Boaz, on the other hand, married Ruth some time after she became a believer. In fact, the Jews later regarded her as a “perfect proselyte.” The marriage of Ruth and Boaz was a blessing for both of them.—Ruth 1:4, 5, 15-17; 4:13-17.
Is it wise, then, to reason that an example such as that of Mahlon and Ruth somehow argues against Jehovah’s counsel to marry only fellow believers? Really, would reasoning that way not be a bit like pointing out a gambler who won a jackpot and then arguing that gambling must therefore be an acceptable way to earn a living?
The Bible urges Christians today to marry “only in the Lord.” It warns against becoming “unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” Such counsel is aimed at true Christians who are currently seeking a mate. For those already married to unbelievers, the Bible offers helpful counsel on how to make the best of a challenging situation. (1 Corinthians 7:12-16, 39; 2 Corinthians 6:14) All such counsel shows that Jehovah God, the Originator of marriage, wants us to be happy as his worshippers—whether single or married.