What The Bible Really Says About Refugees

On June 16, 1967, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel sent a telegram to President John F. Kennedy proposing the president declare a “state of moral emergency” as a response to the ongoing racial injustices in the United States. “The hour calls for moral grandeur and spiritual audacity,” Heschel proclaimed.

A religious person must feel the pain and suffering of the most vulnerable members of society — that is perhaps the central command of the entire Torah. What does the current state of affairs call for as nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families when entering the country during a six-week period in April and May? Religion should be a source of moral clarity, yet we find Attorney General Jeff Sessions turning to the Christian Bible to defend the Trump administration’s immigration policy, and the Orthodox Union honoring Sessions with a plaque of the biblical verse “Justice, justice shall you pursue.”

In case we’ve forgotten, here are 30 excerpts from the Bible that remind us about the religious imperative toward protecting the stranger and the helpless.

1) The LORD appeared to him by the terebinths of Mamre; he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot. Looking up, he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them and, bowing to the ground,he said, “My lords, if it please you, do not go on past your servant.Let a little water be brought; bathe your feet and recline under the tree.And let me fetch a morsel of bread that you may refresh yourselves; then go on—seeing that you have come your servant’s way.” They replied, “Do as you have said.” Genesis 18:1-5

2) The two angels arrived in Sodom in the evening, as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to greet them and, bowing low with his face to the ground,he said, “Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house to spend the night, and bathe your feet; then you may be on your way early.” But they said, “No, we will spend the night in the square.”But he urged them strongly, so they turned his way and entered his house. He prepared a feast for them and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.They had not yet lain down, when the townspeople, the men of Sodom, young and old—all the people to the last man—gathered about the house.And they shouted to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may be intimate with them.” Genesis 19:1-5

3) And Laban said to Jacob, “What did you mean by keeping me in the dark and carrying off my daughters like captives of the sword? Why did you flee in secrecy and mislead me and not tell me? I would have sent you off with festive music, with timbrel and lyre. You did not even let me kiss my sons and daughters good-by! It was a foolish thing for you to do. Genesis 31:26-28

4) There shall be one law for the citizen and for the stranger who dwells among you. Exodus 12:49

5) You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:13

6) You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan.If you do mistreat them, I will heed their outcry as soon as they cry out to Me, and My anger shall blaze forth and I will put you to the sword, and your own wives shall become widows and your children orphans. Exodus 22:20-23

7) You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 23:9

8) You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I the LORD am your God. Leviticus 19:10

9) You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18

10) When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the LORD am your God. Leviticus 19:33-34

11) And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I the LORD am your God. Leviticus 23:22

12) If your kinsman, being in straits, comes under your authority, and you hold him as though a resident alien, let him live by your side. Leviticus 25:35

13) I charged your magistrates at that time as follows, “Hear out your fellow men, and decide justly between any man and a fellow Israelite or a stranger. Deuteronomy 1:16

14) but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing.—You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:18-19

15) If, along the road, you chance upon a bird’s nest, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs and the mother sitting over the fledglings or on the eggs, do not take the mother together with her young. Deuteronomy 22:6

16) No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted into the congregation of the LORD; none of their descendants, even in the tenth generation, shall ever be admitted into the congregation of the LORD, because they did not meet you with food and water on your journey after you left Egypt, and because they hired Balaam son of Beor, from Pethor of Aram-naharaim, to curse you. Deuteronomy 23:4-5

17) You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your kinsman. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land. Deuteronomy 23:8

18) You shall not turn over to his master a slave who seeks refuge with you from his master. He shall live with you in any place he may choose among the settlements in your midst, wherever he pleases; you must not ill-treat him. Deuteronomy 23:16-17

19) Cursed be he who subverts the rights of the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.—And all the people shall say, Amen. Deuteronomy 27:19

20) “Or if a foreigner who is not of Your people Israel comes from a distant land for the sake of Your name—for they shall hear about Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm—when he comes to pray toward this House,oh, hear in Your heavenly abode and grant all that the foreigner asks You for. Thus all the peoples of the earth will know Your name and revere You, as does Your people Israel; and they will recognize that Your name is attached to this House that I have built. I Kings 8:41-43

21) Learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice; Aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan; Defend the cause of the widow. Isaiah 1:17

22) No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock fetters of wickedness, And untie the cords of the yoke To let the oppressed go free; To break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, And to take the wretched poor into your home; When you see the naked, to clothe him, And not to ignore your own kin. Isaiah 58:6-7

23) No, if you really mend your ways and your actions; if you execute justice between one man and another;if you do not oppress the stranger, the orphan, and the widow; if you do not shed the blood of the innocent in this place; if you do not follow other gods, to your own hurt—then only will I let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers for all time. Jeremiah 7:5-7

24) Thus said the LORD: Do what is just and right; rescue from the defrauder him who is robbed; do not wrong the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow; commit no lawless act, and do not shed the blood of the innocent in this place. Jeremiah 22:3

25) Fathers and mothers have been humiliated within you; strangers have been cheated in your midst; orphans and widows have been wronged within you. Ezekiel 22:7

26) And the people of the land have practiced fraud and committed robbery; they have wronged the poor and needy, have defrauded the stranger without redress. Ezekiel 22:29

27) But [first] I will step forward to contend against you, and I will act as a relentless accuser against those who have no fear of Me: Who practice sorcery, who commit adultery, who swear falsely, who cheat laborers of their hire, and who subvert [the cause of] the widow, orphan, and stranger, said the LORD of Hosts. Malachi 3:5

28) No sojourner spent the night in the open; I opened my doors to the road. Job 31:32

29) Thus said the LORD of Hosts: Execute true justice; deal loyally and compassionately with one another. Do not defraud the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; and do not plot evil against one another. Zecharia 7:9-10

30) The LORD watches over the stranger; He gives courage to the orphan and widow, but makes the path of the wicked tortuous. Psalms 146:9

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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