This column comes to us courtesy of our wonderful, talented intern Krystal Heath. Please follow and support her.
It always amuses me how a culture that removes the Bible and prayer from school and panics at the sight of a nativity scene manages to work Scripture into its fabric when, and only when, it’s convenient to its own narrative. For someone who declared, “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation,” the President himself is quite good at this particular feat.
His latest example of using bits of the Bible for his own purposes came during his totally unconstitutional declaration of amnesty for five million illegals.
Democrats from near to far have rallied behind the President’s supposedly Scriptural support for their cause. “Yes! See, you right wing Christian nut-jobs? God wanted us to have executive action amnesty. The Bible says so!” (This, by the way, from the same people who boo’d God at their convention. But I digress...)
So does the Bible actually support the President’s unlawful action? Well, quite frankly, since the President (or better still, his speech writer), didn’t provide us with a reference for what Scripture he was quoting, we’ll have to make some presumptions, as the phrase “you were strangers, too” is found in numerous locations in the Old Testament. The President may have been referencing either Exodus 22:21 or 23:9. Maybe it was Deuteronomy 10:19 or Leviticus 19:34. We don’t really know.
Before I go any further, let me just say, the PRESIDENT made this comparison, okay? I didn’t come up with this myself. All I’m doing is clarifying what he said with some context. Because, you know, if there’s one thing all Biblical scholars agree on (and those topics are few), it’s that the context of any given passage is crucial to it’s interpretation and subsequent application in our lives. (For example, when you read, “Come, walk to me on the water,” Jesus was talking to Peter. Not you personally. You will sink.)
That said, let’s look at just a bit of the context from the four passages the President was possibly quoting…
Exodus 22:21 reads, “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
We’ll just back it up 5 verses for some idea of what we’re talking about in this chapter. Here’s that verse again, with some context. “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins. Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death. He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed. Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Call me crazy, but I’m guessing the President isn’t going to be calling for abstinence during an oval office speech anytime soon, or mentioning how witchcraft is really, well, evil. My guess is the only verse he agrees with there, is the last one. Well, at least, if we interpret it to mean that executive action illegal amnesty is Biblical. So that can’t be it. Let’s try Exodus 23:9. We’ll give this one eight verses of preceding context. Maybe that will help.
“You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute. If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him. You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just. You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Wait… Did the Bible just say we shouldn’t give extra special consideration to the poor simply because they’re poor? And no false reports? Does that mean we have to be transparent and stuff? And not killing innocents – does that mean the Bible supports the pro-life wackos? Horrors, no. This can’t be the passage the President meant. Moving on…
Leviticus 19:34 – let’s go back to less context. That seemed to work better for the President. Let’s try four preceding verses. Here goes 19:30-34… “You shall keep My sabbaths and revere My sanctuary; I am the Lord. Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord. When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.”
Keep the Sabbath? Revere my sanctuary? (Does the President believe the Temple Mount belong to the Jews, then?) Respecting our elders. There’s a safe one! Finally! But then comes that bit about “the Lord”. This doesn’t jive with all faiths being equal and is certainly not politically correct. (And just for fun, if you jump back further in the chapter to Leviticus 19:5-8, there’s a bit about those who break the law being cut off from their people. But that definitely doesn’t relate to illegal immigration, I’m sure.)
Only one left. Deuteronomy 10:19, “Show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” But if we put it in some context… let’s give this one five verses of context, shall we?
“For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.”
Oh, dear. We’re back to lots of God being God and making sure we obey Him… but we aren’t a Christian nation, so that definitely doesn’t work, either. Also, did that say we’re supposed to give credit to God for how everything is awesome? The ACLU is not gonna like this…
Are you starting to get the picture? No matter how you slice it, the President would vehemently oppose almost every word surrounding the verses that he is using to promote amnesty. That’s not Scriptural. It’s not even understandable.
See the thing is, we don’t get to just pull out the parts of the Bible that we like and say, “Yup, I like this verse that says God will bless me, but that one about being hated like Jesus was… that one doesn’t apply to me.” That’s not how it works.
But going back to the President’s trying to equate illegal immigration to these verses, not only is it contextually inaccurate, it’s chock full of historical analogy-ish problems. Because, well, the children of Israel never actually “immigrated” to Egypt… and that’s who God was talking to in these verses.
Just in case you need a refresher course on the latter chapters of Genesis, Jacob’s eleventh son, Joseph, was sold by his jealous brothers into slavery in Egypt. Once there, he was bought by a high government official, Potiphar, whose wife took a fancy to Joseph. When Joseph refused her advances, she slandered him and he was subsequently thrown into prison. But Joseph soon found favor with his jailer, and even interpreted dreams for his fellow inmates. This eventually led to him interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, which in turn, landed him as second in command over all of Egypt.
From that position, Joseph saved Egypt (and presumably the entire eastern world) from certain death by famine, by leading a huge national stockpiling effort. In time, the brothers who had sold Joseph into slavery found themselves travelling to Egypt from Canaan to buy food from the only nation that had any.
Joseph recognized his brothers, and after a little cat and mouse to test their hearts and see if they’d mended their treacherous ways, Joseph’s family was invited by Pharaoh to sojourn in his land. There are two key points to be made here. First, they were INVITED. The Israelites were welcomed into Egypt with open arms. They broke zero laws to get there. And secondly, they were invited to SOJOURN. Neither the Egyptians nor the Hebrews had any intention of putting down roots in Egypt and staying for perpetuity.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Let’s go back to that Book the President likes to quote. Genesis 46:1-4 reads, “So Israel (Jacob) set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes.'”
Did you catch that phrase in bold typeset? God told Jacob not to be afraid to go to Egypt because he would become a great nation there AND, he would bring his family back OUT of Egypt.
But if you don’t think God’s words are enough there, consider what the brothers themselves said when presented before Pharaoh in Genesis 47:1-4, “Joseph went and told Pharaoh, ‘My father and brothers, with their flocks and herds and everything they own, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in Goshen.’ He chose five of his brothers and presented them before Pharaoh. Pharaoh asked the brothers, ‘What is your occupation?’ ‘Your servants are shepherds,’ they replied to Pharaoh, ‘just as our fathers were.’ They also said to him, ‘We have come to live here for a while, because the famine is severe in Canaan and your servants’ flocks have no pasture. So now, please let your servants settle in Goshen.’”
We have come to live here for awhile, they said. Just for awhile. Until the famine’s over is the presumed time frame. And Pharaoh agrees, so they stay. And eventually, they leave. (Though there’s this whole other really cool story with Moses and plagues and miracles – that Christian Bale is going to totally destroy – that happens in the interim before the Exodus, but that’s another story for another time.)
The point is that “sojourner” means just that. It means one who is on a journey. One who is visiting. One who is passing through. And, doing so legally.
The phrase quoted by the President in his amnesty speech has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with granting illegals amnesty. Zip, nada, nil. So if you happen to know the President’s speechwriter, let him know, will ya.
And oh, while you’re at it, could you let him know that if he did want some verses that might actually relate to ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION, he could consider Romans 13:1, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Of course, there’s also Titus 3:1, “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed.”
The bottom line is that this executively ordered amnesty is unconstitutional. In other words… illegal. And using the Bible to justify lawlessness is scraping the bottom of the barrel. Even for you, Mr. President.