What should Christians think of building “The Wall”? Conservative think-tank PragerU has produced a video giving some very practical reasons for building a border wall between America and Mexico. But, as Christians, we should not be “conservative” or “libertarian,” unanchored to our Christian convictions. Our constant refrain should be, “What does the Bible say?”
For anyone tempted to set their own hair on fire over what they might think I’m arguing for in this article, please keep in mind I am only arguing in this particular article that in the Old Testament, Israel and the nations around it had border control rights that were recognized as legitimate by Scripture. As a theonomist, I believe this implies that all nations today enjoy the same rights. This does not mean that The Wall will necessarily be done well, biblically, or wisely, but it does mean that America does have God-recognized border control rights.
It turns out the Bible has a great deal to say about borders. First, Moses recognized the existence of the borders of Canaan. Num. 34:1-2 says, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Command the people of Israel, and say to them, “When you enter the land of Canaan (this is the land that shall fall to you for an inheritance, the land of Canaan as defined by its borders), your south side shall be from the wilderness of Zin alongside Edom, and your southern border shall run from the end of the Salt Sea on the east.”’” Notice it is God Himself speaking to Moses about these borders.
Further, we see the legitimacy of these borders recognized. Num. 20:14-21 says:
“Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom: ‘Thus says your brother Israel…We will go along the King’s Highway. We will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.’ But Edom said to him, ‘You shall not pass through, lest I come out with the sword against you.’ And the people of Israel said to him, ‘We will go up by the highway, and if we drink of your water, I and my livestock, then I will pay for it. Let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.’ But he said, ‘You shall not pass through.’ And Edom came out against them with a large army and with a strong force. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory, so Israel turned away from him.”
Moses recognized the legal right of foreign kings to refuse entry to foreigners. If their refusal was not legitimate in any way, Moses, being a prophet, could have simply called on God to forcibly allow passage, but he did not do this. This is also seen in Neh. 2:7: “And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah.’”
Israel herself exercised this right on at least one occasion. Neh. 13:19-21, “As soon as it began to grow dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I stationed some of my servants at the gates, that no load might be brought in on the Sabbath day.”
How do we know who is a citizen and who isn’t? We see Israel keeping track of who is a citizen of Israel in Num. 1:18: “Moses and Aaron took these men who had been named, and on the first day of the second month, they assembled the whole congregation together, who registered themselves by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names from twenty years old and upward, head by head, as the Lord commanded Moses. So he listed them in the wilderness of Sinai.” This was necessary, as some laws would have been impossible to execute if there was no way to discriminate between a citizen of Israel and a resident alien. One of Israel’s laws concerning slavery in Ex. 25:46 says, “You may bequeath them [strangers who sojourn] to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.” In order to obey this law, there would have a be legal proof that someone was a citizen of Israel as opposed to a mere sojourner.
Furthermore, it was possible for a member of Israel to be “cut off from Israel” (Gen. 14:17). Ex. 21:2 implicitly grants the right for one to control the borders of one’s home; a fortiori, a nation should then be able to control its own borders as well.
Thus, the Bible recognizes the existence and legitimacy of national borders, and means to legally distinguish between a citizen and non-citizen.
Keep in mind in all this that the very same Democratic party who is calling border control racist gave Bill Clinton a standing ovation when he broached the subject. According to washingtontimes.com, “Bill Clinton, in his 1995 State of the Union address, spoke about illegal immigration and didn’t mince words. He even used the word ‘illegal aliens,’ not ‘undocumented’— gasp! ‘All Americans, not only in the states most heavily affected but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country,’ Mr. Clinton said. ‘The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public service they use impose burdens on our taxpayers.’”
We cannot make our ethical decisions based on the current zeitgeist of our day. Regardless if “The Wall” is being proposed by a crass, shoot-from-the-hip president, or whether it is being criticized as racist by his detractors. Our ethical moorings must remain firm in the unchanging standard of God’s Word, which recognizes a nations God-given right to build a wall.