Wow!  I can’t believe that it has been five months since my last post on this!  Since then I have delivered a paper on this topic at The Council for Dispensational Hermeneutics annual conference which was this month.  There were no calls for stoning after my presentation, so that encouraged me to complete this series on my blog.

Remember my goal in this is to help us think Biblically about a current issue.  This is not to say that the Bible gives us explicit commandments about borders, but rather that the Bible sets up some parameters that guide us toward making wise and scripturally informed decisions.

If you don’t remember what the first four posts said you can go back to my earlier posts and read them.  But not everyone has time to do that.  So, here are the three principles that I have established so far:

Principle #1: God Has Established National Borders to Limit the Spread and Impact of Sin

Principle #2: God Disrupts Borders and Displaces People So they Will Search For Him

Principle #3: In Eternity Nations Will Honor God

So, here are some basic principles from the Bible about borders and nations.  What about those that cross borders? What about immigrants?  You may be again surprised that the Bible says a lot about immigrants.  Of course, when we talk about foreigners or immigrants in the Bible it is mostly about those outside or moving into Israel.

What we see when we look closely at the Bible is that there are several different categories or foreigners or immigrants that are addressed.

Before I go on, I think I need to warn you.  I am going to revert to my Bible-geek mode in this discussion because we need to talk about what the Bible says in its original language.  Why?  Simply because translators don’t help us sometimes.  They are occasionally inconsistent in the way they translate the same Hebrew word.  I don’t think they are intentionally trying to confuse us.  Instead, they are doing their best to not only be accurate but readable.  It is a tough balancing act.  For this topic, however, consistency matters.

So, in full geek mode, I am going to take a look at four words: gertoshavnakhri, and zwr (try to pronounce that one!).  The first two we will consider are ger and toshav.  I am looking at them together because they are used synonymously, or nearly so.  From here on out I will just write about the ger even though I mean ger and toshav.  After all, it will save me some typing and you some reading!

ger was a person from a foreign nation who was a temporary resident in Israel.  A ger was someone who fully embraced the religion and culture of Israel.  As a result, with few exceptions, they were given the rights of natural citizens of Israel. A ger had to obey the Sabbath laws (Ex. 20:10) and observe the feast of weeks (Dt. 16:9-12), and booths (Dt. 16:14).

ger was protected in Israel.  They were to be treated as a native Israelite (Lev. 19:33), could not be economically exploited (Dt. 24:14-15), or deprived of legal rights (Dt. 24:17, Num. 35:15, Josh. 20:9). They were eligible for charitable support (Dt. 24:19-21) and could receive money collected in the triennial tithe (Dt. 26:11ff).  

Note these instructions that God provided concerning the ger, “You shall not wrong a sojourner (ger) or oppress him, for you were sojourners (ger) in the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 22:21) Or just a chapter later, “You shall not oppress a sojourner (ger). You know the heart of a sojourner (ger), for you were sojourners (ger) in the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 23:9) And again, “You shall treat the stranger (ger) who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers (ger) in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord.” (Lev. 19:34)

Did you notice that recurring phrase “for you were sojourners”?  The sojourning of Israel in Egypt was brutal.  Their brutal treatment at the hands of the Egyptians was to inform and temper their treatment of the ger among them.  This sort of shared experience leads to empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  So, my fourth principle is:

Principle #4: God Intends Us to Have Empathy for Some Immigrants

Here is our growing collection of Biblical principles concerning borders, and controlling borders:

Principle #1: God Has Established National Borders to Limit the Spread and Impact of Sin

Principle #2: God Disrupts Borders and Displaces People So they Will Search For Him

Principle #3: In Eternity Nations Will Honor God

Principle #4: God Intends Us to Have Empathy for Some Immigrants

Next time, which will be in a few days not a few months, we will look at those other two words: nakhri, and zwr.  What we will find is that not all immigrants were treated the same.

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