- Rick LoPresti
People sometimes misinterpret the Bible and try to use it to support or validate their positions on various issues. Sometimes this is done because of failure to properly study the scriptures. Sometimes people are just repeating what someone else said the Bible means. Sometimes it is quite on purpose because they don't care what the Bible really means. They just want to twist the scripture for their own purposes. One area where this has become common recently is where the Bible speaks of strangers. This topic has not been used to try to justify everything from illegal immigration to not vetting people coming from known harbors of terrorism for the sake of national security. These topics are highly controversial, and this blog will certainly not settle these issues across political lines; but it will endeavor to examine what the Bible actually says about strangers. The following points are submitted for consideration:
1. Strangers were not people who broke the laws of the land and immigrated illegally.
2. Strangers were not political refugees from the sworn active enemy nations of Israel that
were allowed to enter Israel with no vetting.
3. Strangers were not enemy combatants from foreign lands. If they were, they would have
been killed if at all possible.
4. Strangers were not people from other nations who were allowed to migrate to Israel and
break their laws.
5. Almost every verse in the the Bible (and all those in the Old Testament) that speak of
strangers is talking about people who simply were not Israelites. They were Gentiles. The
Old Testament was based on covenants God made with Abraham and his descendants.
Strangers were people not descended from him, and more specifically from his son Isaac
and his son Jacob.
6. The Bible commands kind treatment of friendly strangers (Lev 19:10, Lev 23:22, Lev 25:35
Deut 10:18-19, Deut 14:28-29, Deut 16:11 & 14, Deut 23:7, Deut 24:14-21, Deut 26:11-13, 1Ki
8:41-43, Is 56:3, Jer 7:6, Jer 22:3, Eze 22:7 & 29, Eze 47:22-23, Zech 7:10, Mal 3:5, Mt 25:35-
44, 1Tim 5:10, Heb 13:2, 3Jn 5). It also warns against vexing them (Ex 22:21, Ex 23:12, Lev
19:33-34). However, the residents of Canaan were to be annihilated by Israel when they
entered the promised land because they were spiritual and political enemies (Ex 23:23-24,
Deut 7:1-6, Deut 12:1-4, Deut 20:17).
7. Therefore the Gentiles that were allowed to live among the Israelites had to assimilate to
their culture and follow their laws if they wanted to be part of them. There was no
expectation of accomodation of the customs of the nations they came from. In fact, that
was expressly forbidden. Here are Jewish laws strangers were required to keep in same
manner the Jews did:
a. Circumcision - Gen 17:12
b. Passover - Ex12:19 & 43-49, Num 9:14, Deut 5:14, Is 56:6
c. Sabbath - Ex 20:10
d. Day of atonement - Lev 16:29
e. No eating of blood - Lev 17:12
f. Uncleanness - Lev 17:15
g. Sexual abominations - Lev 18:26
h. idolatry - Lev 20:2, Eze 14:7
i. Offerings - Lev 22:18, Num 15:14-16
j. Blaspheme - Lev 24:16
k. All Mosaic laws - Lev 24:22
l. Sins of ignorance - Num 15:26-30
m. Ashes of the red heifer - Num 19:10
n. Cities of refuge - Num 35:15, Josh 20:9
o. Judgment - Deut 1:16, Deut 24:7, Deut 27:19
p. One covenant for both - Deut 29:4, Deut 31:12
8. Strangers did not have the same status as Israelites in some aspects:
a. Strangers had limited access and in regards to the tabernacle were totally forbidden
under penalty of death (Ex 12:43, Ex 29:33, Ex 30:33, Lev 22:10-13, Num 1:51, Num 3:10 &
38, Num 16:40, Num 18:4 & 7).
b. Strangers could not own Israelite slaves - Lev 25:38-39
c. A stranger could not be king of Israel - Deut 17:15
d. A stranger could not lend an Israelite money with interest - Deut 23:20
e An Israelite widow could not marry a stranger - Deut 25:5
f. A stranger being above the Israelites was a sign the Israelites were cursed for their sins
- Deut 28:43
9. They very fact that the Bible speaks so much about strangers shows that they are clearly
considered a different group of people, and that not all people are to be considered
exactly the same with no distinctions at all. Christians and unbelievers are clearly differentiated in the same way in the New Testament. Christians are called saints, the
house of God, the sons of God, the bride of Christ, the family of God, the body of Christ.
or the church (which means called out ones), and unbelievers are called the world. The
church is to be holy, which means separated from the world unto God. The world is the
value system which is contrary to the word of God and those who follow it. The church is
repeatedly admonished to guard its identity and culture from being diluted by the world.
Every nation must likewise guard its identity, culture, and laws from being diluted. There is
no such thing as multi-culturalism (2Ki 17).
Israel was warned about the danger of allowing those who refused to assimilate and keep their laws (Ex 23:23-24, Deut 7:1-6, Deut 12:1-4, Deut 20:17). The danger God warned them of was that they would lose their culture, their values, and eventually their nation (Num 33:55, Josh 23:13). The church must also be aware of this, and any nation whose culture should be preserved.
In conclusion, the Bible does not condone illegal immigration, unvetted people from dangerous places being allowed to freely immigrate, false compassion, or lax or no enforcement of national laws (Rom 13:1-7). People should be aware that misrepresenting what the Bible teaches is a very serious matter with eternal consequences (Deut 4:2, Prov 30:5-6, Rev 22:18-19). We should also avoid turning the Bible into a political propaganda book. It is the holy word of God which shows us how to saved from our sins, come into a relationship with God, and do His will.