Origin of the Races

What the Bible doesn't say:

  • When and how did the races begin?

  • No biblical data Ė Not important enough to mention?

    • Mark of Cain?

    • Hamís penalty?

    • Part of the scattering at the Tower of Babel?

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Slide 98 of 109

Although there is no direct biblical data regarding the origin of the races, people have speculated that certain judgments of God caused the races to begin. According to the Book of Mormon (not part of the Bible), the unbelief of the Lamanites (the supposed ancestors of Native Americans) led God to put a curse of black skin on them, whereas the Nephites were still “white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome.”1 Others have speculated that the mark God put on Cain as a penalty for murdering his brother Abel was a change of skin color. However, the Bible does not give any hint about what the "mark" of Cain was.2 In addition, Cain is not in the line of descent to Noah, so any racial changes that might have been made would have disappeared at the flood. Some have speculated that Ham's penalty might have been a change of race. However, the text says only that Ham's descendants would be servants to his brothers.3 Another speculation is that God changed the races at the same time he scattered the people at the Tower of Babel. Although this is possible, the Genesis account is entirely silent about this kind of action on the part of God.4 Given the silence of the Bible on the subject of the origin of the races, one might conclude that the topic was thought to be unimportant in the overall scope of the Bible. Another page on this site discusses whether the Bible is racist.

References Top of page

  1. And he had caused the acursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. (2 Nephi 5:21)

  2. "And Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is too great to bear! "Behold, Thou hast driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Thy face I shall be hidden, and I shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and it will come about that whoever finds me will kill me." So the LORD said to him, "Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, lest anyone finding him should slay him. (Genesis 4:13-15)

  3. "And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.... When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. So he said, "Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brothers." He also said, "Blessed be the LORD, The God of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant. "May God enlarge Japheth, And let him dwell in the tents of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant." (Genesis 9:22-27)

  4. Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. And it came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly." And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. And they said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth. These are the records of the generations of Shem. Shem was one hundred years old, and became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood; (Genesis 11:1-10)

Last Modified June 21, 2006


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