The Influence of Language and Culture
In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people. So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin. Should we then hear of your doing all this great evil, transgressing against our God by marrying pagan women?”
(Nehemiah 13:23-27 NKJV)
With the influence of language and culture comes the danger of accepting and worshiping other gods. During Nehemiah’s time, the Jews were in a foreign country and some had decided to intermarry with the people in the new culture who worshiped other gods. The children began to speak the language of the new culture and they stopped speaking the language of the Jews. Nehemiah found this troubling, because he knew that when a person starts to intergrate the language, they could also learn the faith of the new culture.
The first influence in the culture is language. After language comes other cultural practices, including religion. When a child learns the foreign language, they will also “inherit” other cultural mores.
For example. when you learn German in the former East Germany, you inherit the cultural ideas of atheism and rationalism. When you learn the language of Serbia, you can discover Islam.
When Nehemiah heard that some children did not speak Hebrew, he knew there was a problem. He urged the people (very forcefully) to keep their allegience to God. His example was former King Solomon.
But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites– from the nations of whom the LORD had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not fully follow the LORD, as did his father David. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. So the LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice,
(1 Kings 11:1-9 NKJV)
The problem with Solomon was not that he intermarried, but that he turned away from God. Even the greatest king in Israel’s history fell to the temptation to leave God. The influence of other cultures was too great even for him.
The same is true today for each of us as Christians. When a Christian decides to marry a non-Christian, whether that person believes in Allah, or some other god, they put themselves in the same temptation. God expects us to honor him more than other gods. He should be the greatest influence in our lives.