Why are there different skin colours?

We have examined from Genesis 10 how different ethnic groups came about. But where then did different skin colours come from? The Bible gives us a hint. Notice that for each people, Genesis 10 mentions that they dwelt “in their lands“:


Gen 10:5, 20 & 31 (NKJV)

5 From these the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into THEIR LANDS, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.


20 These were the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages, in THEIR LANDS and in their nations. 


31 These were the sons of Shem, according to their families, according to their languages, in THEIR LANDS, according to their nations.


The word “their” implies that they did not share the same geographic locations, but lived separately from one another within specific geographical boundaries.


This is historically accurate as the descendants of Japheth (the Japhethites) lived in the north and west of Palestine in Eurasia and were Caucasoid (fair complexioned). The descendants of Ham (the Hamites) lived in southwestern Asia and northeastern Africa and had dark skin whilst the descendants of Shem (the Semites) lived in the north of the Persian Gulf and were dusky (brown-skinned).


This separation into different parts of the Earth gives us certain clues as to how skin colour came about. The Earth is divided into the Northern and Southern Hemisphere by an invisible line known as the Equator. The rays of the sun shine directly at the Equator (which is the center of the Earth). Consequently, the Equator would be the hottest part of the Earth, the farther away you move from it, the cooler it becomes.


Every living thing created by Yahweh was created to adapt to its physical surroundings to ensure survival. Thus fishes have gills to survive under water, zebras have striped patterns to deter predators and the cactus can turn its leaves into spikes to prevent water loss in desert regions. All these features are adaptive to ensure longevity. This is the same with man.


The sun emits harmful rays known as ultraviolet rays (UV rays) which are generally harmful to the skin. Overexposure can lead to a health condition known as melanosis (cancer in the skin cells). In the skin of man is a black pigment known as melanin which absorbs these harmful UV rays to prevent damage to the skin.


The more exposure to the sun, the more melanin the body creates to fight its destruction. Consequently, those who lived closest to the Equator would produce more melanin (dark skin pigmentation) as exposure to the sun is greater at the Equator than in other climates. This is how skin colour therefore came about.


As the sons of Noah spread into all of the Earth, they moved to different positions from the sun and this consequently influenced their skin colour. The Bible explains what the sun does to the human skin in Songs of Solomon 1:5-6


Songs of Solomon 1:5-6 (NKJV)

5 I am DARK, BUT LOVELY, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. 6 Do not look upon me, because I am DARK, BECAUSE THE SUN HAS TANNED ME. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept. 


The word “tanned” as used here translates the Hebrew word “shazaph” (שָׁזַף) which means “to be sunburnt.” The Hebrew literally reads: “The sun has looked upon me with its piercing rays.” The Bible is clear that exposure to the sun at a close proximity would darken the skin. (Intriguing is the fact that modern medicine and science was nonexistent at the time the Bible was written).


Thus in cooler climates, the skin will be fairer. The same applies to hair and nose. The hair of man would differ based on his proximity to the sun. To protect the skull from damage by UV rays, the hair becomes woolly close to the Equator. To prevent inhaling too much of cold air and damage to the respiratory tract, the septum elongates in colder climes, while closer to the Equator, it widens to allow breathing and survival. Therefore the various varieties found within the human race are simply how the body adapted to survive. These traits were then transmitted to the offspring via genetics. God made living creatures to reproduce after their own kind (Gen 1:24-25, 5:3). Thus, the offspring of the Caucasian would be Caucasoid.


These various varieties found within the human race (different skin colours, nose size, hair and ethnicities) are not evil. They constitute the beauty of humanity. God loves diversity. He never meant for skin colours or ethnicities to be a bad thing!


There is nothing wrong with different skin colours and men belonging to an ethnic group. Belonging to a people group can give one a sense of identity (i.e. “I belong here”) and that is ok!


Furthermore, we find that Genesis 10 is actually man obeying God’s instruction to Adam and Eve in Gen 1:28


Gen 1:28 (NKJV)

28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; FILL THE EARTH and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 


He wants men EVERYWHERE. He had said the same thing to Noah, “So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and FILL THE EARTH.’” (Gen 9:1). Ethnicities are therefore not evil. Different people-groups in different parts of the world is part of God’s plan. Different human tribes are a part of the diversity God wanted.


Thus, there is JUST ONE human RACE (just one humanity) then several languages, ethnicities, tribes, nations and skin colours, within THAT RACE. We don’t have to deny that we are one to uphold your ethnic group. Man is one and we are diverse—distinct and yet the same!


No skin colour supersedes another in God’s eyes. The black-skinned were never subservient to any other skin colour. In fact, it is documented in history that the descendants of Ham (the black-skinned) were the most evolved of all the other sons of Noah in technology. They were great inventors.

(Noah’s three sons, Arthur C. Custance)


Therefore, skin colour has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with capacity of industry or creativity. God respects our choice of ethnicities, nations and even our skin colour. But He still treats EVERYONE OF US the same way. He cares for ALL the SAME way. There is no discrimination or segregation with Him!


(For a thorough treatment on this subject, you may consult the sermon-series “God Wants The World! PART 2” by Pastor Josh Banks which deals with the concepts of RACE, SKIN COLOUR and ETHNICITY from the Bible).


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2021.


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