I have seen several people recently cite OT passages about strangers and foreigners to argue that we need to receive refugees and treat them in the same benevolent ways that Israel was supposed to do with strangers. A thorough examination of Scripture, however, reveals that this argument is not a valid use of Scripture because it does not account for certain specific ways that God’s Law made important distinctions between Israelites and strangers.
Distinctions between Israelites and Strangers
Strangers in Israel were not entitled to be treated exactly as Israelites were in the following specific ways:
1. Taking people as bondmen and how such people were to be treated
Lev 25:44 Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.
45 Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.
46 And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.
2. Creditors being required to release debts
Deu 15:1 At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.
2 And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD’S release.
3 Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release;
3. Charging interest on lending
Deu 23:19 Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury:
20 Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it.
These passages from God’s Law that He gave to Israel show that the Bible cannot be used legitimately to argue that the Bible teaches that refugees must be treated in every respect exactly the same way that all Americans are treated.