While the Bible doesn’t provide a specific answer to this question, it does offer some basic truths about God’s creation of mankind. But it’s important to put the origin of man in context and first remind our children that God created everything! In fact, the very first verse of the Bible states that “God created the heavens and the earth”; and Isaiah 40:28 makes it clear that God created all that is. By our Creator’s unlimited power, He simply spoke everything into existence – from the complexity of the living cell to the vast universe brimming with billions of galaxies!
However, when God created humans, He did something very special. He formed man out of clay that He had already made, and then breathed His own life into him. When He created the first woman, He also used that which He had already made. He caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep and formed Eve from his side. One of the most amazing truths about God’s creation of mankind is that He made them in His image!
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27
Think about it – from the very beginning, Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, and every one of their descendants after them, including you and me, have also been created in God’s image.
While the Bible doesn’t provide a direct explanation for why humans were created with so many variations in appearance, it does offer clues about how these differences might have progressed over time.
We know that after humans built the Tower of Babel, God confused their languages so that they could no longer communicate with each other. This divided the people and caused them to scatter around the world, settling in various regions and congregating with others who spoke the same language. From these segregated groups of people came the different ethnicities we know today.
So how do we explain all our physical differences, particularly between different countries? Did everyone look different at the time of the Tower of Babel, or did these changes take place after everyone was scattered around the world?
We may not know the specifics, but what we do know is that the more we study human genetics, the more the evidence points to various adaptations within the human race. Based on climate, sun exposure and other elements, these unique adaptations manifested over time, accounting for differences in skin color, hair color, eye color, facial features, and other physical traits. This helps us understand why we group people by “ethnicity” today.
When the people of Babel were dispersed they were isolated in different groups and regions around the world. As these groups reproduced, their physical characteristics were passed on to the following generations. The longer a group remained in the same region together, the less variation there was over time among their offspring.
When we observe the wide range of skin colors, hair colors, etc., we may wonder whether this physical variation really makes us that much different from one another. In short, it’s only “skin-deep” because we’re all created in God’s image. We know this has been proven scientifically, but more importantly, the Bible teaches that we’re all members of one race – the human race.
There are two types of melanin (the pigment producing cells in our skin) in mammals – the brownish black eumelanin and the reddish yellow pheomelanin.
A study conducted in 1991 was conducted to determine whether both types of melanin are present in all humans. It had long been assumed that only those individuals with darker colored skin had the eumelanin type of melanin present in their skin. This study proved that to be untrue.
“Eumelanin and pheomelanin were found in all epidermal samples and their relative proportions correlated well with those found in samples of hair taken from the same subjects. The lowest concentrations of eumelanin were found in subjects of skin type I, with higher levels in skin types II and III. The concentrations of pheomelanin were more variable and showed no relationship to skin type.” (cite study)
This study concluded that the eumelanin type of melanin and the pheomelanin type of melanin where found in all skin types, just in varying amounts. And surprisingly, the pheomelanin type, which accounts for lighter skin tones, was found in many differing amounts and didn’t seem to show any pattern based on skin color, light or dark.
So what does this study tell us? That no matter what color skin we have, we all have the same skin that just pigments itself differently using the same two types of melanin. Our genetic makeup was given to us by God and determines what that pigment ends up looking like.
On a practical level, we all look different because our genetic adaptations developed over time to help our ancestors survive in the regions they traveled to after Babel. But perhaps our physical differences are better explained by a sovereign and creative God who deeply loves all His children and enjoys looking down on a beautiful and diverse group of people created in His image.
Thody, A. J., Higgins, E. M., Wakamatsu, K., Ito, S., Burchill, S. A., & Marks, J. M. (1991). Pheomelanin as well as Eumelanin Is Present in Human Epidermis. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 97(2), 340-344.
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