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A1. Being Unequally Yoked in Matters of Godly Importance    [Make a Comment]

We are not to be unequally yoked in matters of godly importance.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed is He):

Exodus 23:32-33
You are not to make a covenant with them or with their gods. They are not to live in your land; otherwise they will make you sin against me by ensnaring you to serve their gods.

Leviticus 19:19 (Maimonides RN215, RN216, RN217; Meir MN107, MN142; Chinuch C244, C245, C548)
Observe my regulations. 'Don't let your livestock mate with those of another kind, don't sow your field with two different kinds of grain, and don't wear a garment of cloth made with two different kinds of thread.'

Leviticus 21:2-3 (Maimonides RN158, RN159; Meir MN138, MN139; Chinuch C266, C267)
A cohen is not to marry a woman who is a prostitute, who has been profaned or who has been divorced; because he is holy for his God.

Numbers 25:1-3
Isra'el stayed at Sheetim, and there the people began whoring with the women of Mo'av. These women invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, where the people ate and bowed down to their gods. With Isra'el thus joined to Ba'al-P'or, the anger of ADONAI blazed up against Isra'el.

Deuteronomy 7:1-41 (Maimonides RN52; Meir MN19; Chinuch C427)
ADONAI your God is going to bring you into the land you will enter in order to take possession of it, and he will expel many nations ahead of you - the Hitti, Girgashi, Emori, Kena'ani, P'rizi, Hivi and Y'vusi, seven nations bigger and stronger than you. When he does this, when ADONAI your God hands them over ahead of you, and you defeat them, you are to destroy them completely! Do not make any covenant with them. Show them no mercy. Don't intermarry with them - don't give your daughter to his son, and don't take his daughter for your son. For he will turn your children away from following me in order to serve other gods. If this happens, the anger of ADONAI will flare up against you, and he will quickly destroy you.


1. The commentators' mitzvot are based on Deuteronomy 7:3.


Deuteronomy 22:9 (Maimonides RN216; Chinuch C548)
You are not to sow two kinds of seed between your rows of vines; if you do, both the two harvested crops and the yield from the vines must be forfeited.

Deuteronomy 22:10 (Maimonides RN218; Meir MN180; Chinuch C550)
You are not to plow with an ox and a donkey together.

Deuteronomy 22:11 (Maimonides RN42; Meir MN181; Chinuch C551)
You are not to wear clothing woven with two kinds of thread, wool and linen together.

Matthew 6:24
No one can be slave to two masters; for he will either hate the first and love the second, or scorn the second and be loyal to the first. You can't be a slave to both God and money.

2 Corinthians 6:14-17
Do not yoke yourselves together in a team with unbelievers. For how can righteousness and lawlessness be partners? What fellowship does light have with darkness? What harmony can there be between the Messiah and B'liya'al? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement can there be between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God - as God said, 'I will house myself in them, and I will walk among you. I will be their God, and they will be my people.' Therefore ADONAI says, 'Go out from their midst; separate yourselves; don't even touch what is unclean. Then I myself will receive you.

The Scriptures supporting this mitzvah appear to have three dissimilar themes: agriculture, marriage, and idolatry. What they all have in common however, are sets of things that work in opposition to each other, causing a nullification of positive value that one of them alone might have had.

First, the agricultural examples: (1) that we not yoke an ox and a donkey together to a plow, (2) that we not wear garments with wool and linen woven together, and (3) that we not sow two kinds of seeds in fields and in vineyards. The traditional explanation for not working two kinds of animals together is that it is cruel to the animals since the stronger of the two will drag the weaker one, and the weaker of the two will impede the stronger one. From a different point of view and the one offered here, the work that either of the animals could do alone is impeded because they are pulling against each other. Maimonides' explanation (echoed by HaChinuch) for not wearing wool and linen woven together is that such a fabric was worn by the heathen priests in Egypt. From a different point of view and the one I offer here is that wool and linen shrink different amounts after they are wet, so if they are woven together, they pull against each other when they dry and weaken the fabric. Hachinuch's explanation for not sowing two kinds of seed is that it is an extension of the prohibition against mating mixed species. From a different point of view and the one I offer here is that different species of plants absorb nutrients from the soil in different proportions, and when planted close together compete with each other to the detriment of both.

Consider the marriage examples next: 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 explains it best (although marriage is not mentioned in that Scripture) when it summarizes "What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement can there be between the temple of God and idols?" Without agreement on spiritual things between husband and wife, the husband cannot lead the wife, they pull in different directions, and destruction follows, sometimes with the believer compromising his or her faith.

Finally, consider the idolatry examples: Israel was prohibited from making covenants with heathen nations and intermarrying with their sons and daughters for the same reason as was stated between believers and unbelievers. God predicted that if that happened, Israelites would be lured away from God and into idol worship, as He said in Deuteronomy 7:4: "For he will turn your children away from following me in order to serve other gods."

The classical commentators tend to interpret the Scriptures of this mitzvah according to the plain meaning of their words and separate from each other, whereas I see them as connected by their common thread of forces pulling against each other. Clearly, the weight of this mitzvah's application is that, if we belong to God, we must not yoke ourselves with anything or anyone who is not of God. Marriage is the most obvious example, followed perhaps by other partnerships like business partnerships. People who do not believe similarly regarding God, hold different values, and take different ethical and moral positions on things. This either causes the believer to compromise, or it breaks up the partnership. As Matthew 6:24 states: "No one can be slave to two masters."

If only 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 were the subject of this Mitzvah #A1, it could have been given the more narrow title "Being Unequally Yoked with Unbelievers", but even as between two believers, partnerships are unwise if partners see things and respond to things very differently. In this, the Scriptures have very far-reaching wisdom.

Commentators:
None of Maimonides', Meir's, or HaChinuch's mitzvot oppose unequal yoking in general. Rather, their mitzvot speak to specific prohibitions against combining dissimilar items and, in some cases, joining dissimilar persons. Maimonides' mitzvot of this kind are as follows:

RN42: Not wearing cloth made from both wool and linen.
RN52: Not marrying an heretic.
RN158: A priest not marrying a harlot.
RN159: A priest not marrying a profaned woman.
RN215: Not sowing two kinds of seeds.
RN216: Not sowing grain or vegetables among grape vines.
RN218: Not working a field with two different kinds of animals.

NCLA: JMm JFm KMm KFm GMm GFm

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