Aliens are not the enemy…

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Ezekiel 47:21 So you shall divide this land among you according to the tribes of Israel. 22 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. 23 In whatever tribe aliens reside, there you shall assign them their inheritance, says the Lord GOD. 

Back when Joshua was leading the people to occupy the Promised Land (after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness with Moses) God directed the land to be divided in a particular way. Hundreds of years later, Israel was conquered and surviving Jews sent to exile in Babylon. They remained as exiles for 70 years before they were allowed to return to their homeland. Here in Ezekiel 47 and 48 God is again giving instruction on how the land is to be divided among the tribes of Israel.

What I find interesting in these verses is the direction related to treatment of aliens (non-Jews living among the Jews). When the land was first allotted under Joshua, God’s people were directed to avoid allowing non-Jews in their midst. God was afraid the Israelites would be led astray by aliens and their pagan religious traditions. Better to keep the land racially homogenous to support fidelity to God. It was perhaps the right idea, but the directive failed miserably.

Reading the verses above it would appear that God is making concessions to reality. There were already lots of aliens living among the Jews, particularly after living in Babylon for 70 years. In fact, aliens were to have the same essential rights as Jews and were to be included in the inheritances of the tribes. It’s really a very generous policy toward non-Jews. Here’s a quote from one of my bible commentaries:

The Israelite is to love the alien, even to love him as himself, “for you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:19; Lev. 19:34): an interesting illustration of the impact of shared historical memory on the formation of a community ethos and the laws that embody it.” – Interpretation Bible Commentary

I wonder what it would look like for the United States to embrace a policy of immigration in light of the fact that all Americans (except Native Americans) were ourselves once immigrants from somewhere else. Many of our ancestors came here fleeing violence and persecution, as is frequently the case today with people traveling from countries south of the border to America. How do we balance compassion for persecuted peoples while honoring our need to secure our borders from those who would seek to do violence to Americans? In any event, God is declaring that aliens are not the enemy, but are brothers and sisters to those of us who call this land home.

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