Has the Time Come for a Biblical Immigration Policy?

By Paul Thomas Zenki

What would a Bible-believing nation do about aliens? …

Living in the South, you hear a lot of folks say we need to abide by Biblical teaching. You also hear people complaining about non-Americans coming to live and work here.

So, I thought to myself, “What does the Bible have to say about that? What was Biblical policy for folks in the Holy Land?” Having a Bible handy, I looked it up.

Here’s what I found, and I trust my “Bible believing” neighbors will be in full support….

There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you.

— Exodus 12:49

You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien.

— Exodus 22:21

You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

— Exodus 23:9

This shall be a statute to you forever: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall fast, and shall do no work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you.

— Leviticus 16:29

You shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and commit none of these abominations, either the citizen or the alien who resides among you.

— Leviticus 18:26

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien.

— Leviticus 19:9–10

When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself.

— Leviticus 19:33–34

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the alien.

— Leviticus 23:22

You shall have one law for the alien and for the citizen.

— Leviticus 24:22

Any alien residing among you who wishes to keep the passover to the Lord shall do so according to the statute of the passover and according to its regulation; you shall have one statute for both the resident alien and the native.

— Numbers 9:14

An alien who lives with you, or who takes up permanent residence among you, and wishes to offer an offering by fire, a pleasing odor to the Lord, shall do as you do. As for the assembly, there shall be for both you and the resident alien a single statute, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you and the alien shall be alike before the Lord. You and the alien who resides with you shall have the same law and the same ordinance.

— Numbers 15:14–16

If you unintentionally fail to observe all these commandments that the Lord has spoken to Moses… the priest shall make atonement for all the congregation of the Israelites, and they shall be forgiven; it was unintentional, and they have brought their offering, an offering by fire to the Lord, and their sin offering before the Lord, for their error. All the congregation of the Israelites shall be forgiven, as well as the aliens residing among them.

— Numbers 15:22–26

For both the native among the Israelites and the alien residing among them — you shall have the same law for anyone who acts in error.

— Numbers 15:29

You shall designate three cities beyond the Jordan, and three cities in the land of Canaan, to be cities of refuge. These six cities shall serve as refuge for the Israelites, for the resident or transient alien among them, so that anyone who kills a person without intent may flee there.

— Numbers 35:14–15

I charged your judges at that time: “Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien.”

— Deuteronomy 1:16

You shall not eat anything that dies of itself; you may give it to aliens residing in your towns for them to eat, or you may sell it to a foreigner.

— Deuteronomy 14:21

Every third year you shall bring out the full tithe of your produce for that year, and store it within your towns; the Levites, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work that you undertake.

— Deuteronomy 14:28–29

You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them.

— Deuteronomy 24:14–15

You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice.

— Deuteronomy 24:17

When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.

— Deuteronomy 24:19–21

When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year (which is the year of the tithe), giving it to the Levites, the aliens, the orphans, and the widows, so that they may eat their fill within your towns, then you shall say before the Lord your God: “I have removed the sacred portion from the house, and I have given it to the Levites, the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows, in accordance with your entire commandment that you commanded me.

— Deuteronomy 26:12–13

“Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.” All the people shall say, “Amen!”

— Deuteronomy 27:19

You stand assembled today, all of you, before the Lord your God — the leaders of your tribes, your elders, and your officials, all the men of Israel, your children, your women, and the aliens who are in your camp, both those who cut your wood and those who draw your water — to enter into the covenant of the Lord your God, sworn by an oath, which the Lord your God is making with you today.

— Deuteronomy 29:10–12

Then Solomon took a census of all the aliens who were residing in the land of Israel, after the census that his father David had taken.

— 2 Chronicles 2:17

But the Lord will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land; and aliens will join them and attach themselves to the house of Jacob.

— Isaiah 14:1

Do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow.

— Jeremiah 7:6

Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow.

— Jeremiah 22:3

Will you judge the bloody city? Then declare to it all its abominable deeds…: the alien residing within you suffers extortion; the orphan and the widow are wronged in you…. The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery; they have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the alien without redress.

— Ezekiel 22:2–29

You shall divide this land among you according to the tribes of Israel. You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who reside among you and have begotten children among you. They shall be to you as citizens of Israel; with you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe aliens reside, there you shall assign them their inheritance, says the Lord God.

— Ezekiel 47:21–23

Do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.

— Zechariah 7:10

Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against… those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien.

— Malachi 3:5

I don’t know about you, but I see a few themes running through those passages.

Just to be sure, I looked back to see if I’d missed anything, like how aliens should be denied entry, or required to have a passport, or not allowed to work, or be sent back to where they came from, or have to pass a language test, or be put in jail, or be paid less, or be denied any of the rights of citizens, or not allowed to own property, or be barred from holding public office. Didn’t see any of that.

Now, there is a rather complicated law in Leviticus that allowed impoverished aliens to sell themselves into slavery (up to the jubilee year when slaves were freed) and also allowed Israelites to sell themselves to prosperous aliens as indentured servants. But hey, this is the Bible, after all.

And since folks around here are also real big on what the Founders believed, I looked up what they put in place to control immigration, and you know what? Turns out, they just let people walk or ride or sail into the country and live here, even run for office and get elected. And if you stayed a few years and kept out of trouble, you could become a citizen.

Imagine that!

So let’s recap the main points here:

  • Open borders, anyone who wants to live here can come live here, provided they obey our laws.
  • Anyone who comes here has the same rights and obligations as people born here, one law for all, native and alien alike.
  • Immigrants are to be allowed to work, under the same conditions as citizens and with the same benefits.
  • Immigrants should not be wronged or oppressed or cheated, and their wages should not be withheld.
  • Immigrants who want to become permanent residents may do so simply by choosing to stay.
  • Immigrants are free to adopt local ways or to follow their own customs, such as dietary customs, even if they differ from the local culture.
  • Immigrants who are impoverished and hungry should be given food from local food banks to which citizens are required to contribute.
  • Immigrants should be counted in the census.
  • Immigrants can own land.
  • Farmers are required not to harvest the outer rows of their fields, and are prohibited from going back to gather anything that drops to the ground or remains on the branches, so that migrants and the poor can help themselves.

Now mind you, I’m not personally recommending that we do any of that. All I’m saying is, if you believe in living according to the Bible, then this is what you’re going to want to support and vote for, even insist on.

On the other hand, if you’re inclined to say, “Well, those were different times and different circumstances,” that’s fine by me. Just don’t ever come to me again quoting the Bible about anything.

Not a member of Medium? Read every story from Paul Thomas Zenki (and thousands of other writers on Medium) by subscribing now. Your membership directly supports Paul Thomas Zenki and other writers you read. Click here to join.

Medium pays writers! Click here and select “Become a Member” to start writing today!

Header photo by Aline Dassel

Paul Thomas Zenki is an essayist, ghostwriter, copywriter, marketer, songwriter, and consultant living in Athens, GA.