Some Things the Bible Says About Immigration
Liberals and conservatives are using the Bible to defend their versions of immigration. I’m glad the Left is using the Bible. It’s too bad they don’t appeal to the Bible on issues like abortion and same-sex sexuality.
While we can derive moral principles related to how to treat people who enter the United States, there are a few items that do not compare to modern-day immigration issues.
First, the people of Israel were commanded by God to drive out all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. Here’s a sample:
Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images and demolish all their high places; and you shall take possession of the land and live in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it” (Num. 33:50-53).
In what way is what Israel was commanded to do comparable to any nation-state today? It isn’t.
Second, there was no toleration of competing religions:
They were to be entirely rooted out, that the Israelites might not be seduced by their abominable idolatries, Exodus 23:33; Deuteronomy 20:16-18. And destroy all their pictures — Which seem to have been stones curiously engraven and set up for worship, Deuteronomy 16:22. Destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places — The chapels, altars, groves, or other means of worship here set up.
Third, non-Israelites who entered the land had to abide by the same laws that Israelites had to follow although no one was forced to convert Judaism.
Fourth, God established geographical boundaries for Israel: “I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates” (Ex. 23:31). King Solomon “ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt; they brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life” (1 Kings 4:21).
Fourth, while it’s not specifically stated, it’s reasonable to assume that Israel protected its borders and scrutinized those who entered the land. Joshua scrutinized those who entered the land. See the story of the deception of the Gibeonites (Josh. 9). The Gibeonites wanted security for themselves from Israel:
Because it was certainly told your servants that the Lord your God had commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land [Josh. 2:9], and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land before you; therefore we feared greatly for our lives because of you, and have done this thing (9:24).
Their intentions were good, but they went about their goal the wrong way through deception (9:3-8).
Fifth, it’s hard to understand that after driving out the inhabitants of the land that Israel would then open its borders and let the same people back in. Would Joshua have let in “the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite” when their goal was to overthrow Israel?: “they gathered themselves together with one accord to fight with Joshua and with Israel” (Josh. 9:1). Are we to open our borders to everyone, even those who might have designs on destroying our nation from within?
There are other issues related to Israel and immigration. I’ve found James K. Hoffmeier’s book The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens, and the Bible helpful in defining terms:
Clearly, the Hebrews did not view themselves as aliens during this forty-year period of their history [while they resided in the wilderness since they were not living in a plainly defined land controlled by a political authority]. It is important to recognize this fact because it demonstrates that there was a legal distinction between a citizen (i.e., one who is native born in the land of their parents), a foreigner (nekhar or zar—one traveling through the land of another or a visitor), and an alien (ger—one who leaves home to establish a new permanent residence with the approval of a citizen-host. As Moses and the Israelites discovered when attempting to leave Sinai and pass through Edom in the Trans-Jordan (see Chapter 2 [of The Immigration Crisis], they had left the politically neutral Sinai Peninsula and were about to enter a country with borders, and the permission of that nation’s government was required even to travel through their territory (66).
One last point. Paula White, who has served as a spiritual adviser to President Donald Trump, said Jesus Christ never broke immigration laws, and if He had, He would not be fit for the title of “Messiah.” As an adult, Jesus never traveled outside Israel, so this is a moot point.
She went on to say:
“I think so many people have taken biblical scriptures out of context on this, to say stuff like, ‘Well, Jesus was a refugee,’” White said in the interview. “And yes, he did live in Egypt for three and a half years. But it was not illegal. If He had broken the law, then He would have been sinful, and He would not have been our Messiah.” (The Hill/The Blaze)
As an infant, Jesus could not have broken the law because His circumstances were not proactive. It was not His decision to escape from Herod to Egypt. He was an infant. The same would be true of children brought to the United States by their parents.
In addition, Jesus’ parents didn’t break the law when they escaped from Herod’s edict and went down to Egypt (Matt. 2:13-23). Egypt was part of the Roman Empire. Furthermore, there was a direct command by God for their exodus (2:13-15).
When the threat was over, they returned and lived in Nazareth.
It’s not unreasonable to have borders. It’s not unreasonable to scrutinize those who are trying to enter the United States. Israel did not have a welfare system like we have in the United States. If you didn’t work, you didn’t eat. Even gleaning was hard work (Lev. 19:9).