PMW 2018-087 by Victor Couture

(This is part 2, continuing the previous article)

Standing Precedent Considered

Let’s now consider God’s “no molesting [vexing] a stranger” commands from Exodus and Leviticus. Israel’s Remembrance of being strangers/sojourners in a far off country was to be of special interest in observing this command.

In what way, and where, were they strangers? There were three particular incidents of this sojourning happening (which Peter Leithart dutifully notes in his study – as linked later-on in this article). Except for the one ordeal that spanned five centuries, they were rather short dramas of intrigue.

Two occurrences of famine brought both Abraham and Isaac down to Egypt, or very near in the latter case of Isaac. When they were vetted by princes and legates of Egypt, both were less than honest and it caused a rift with Egypt’s kings.

Though these two scenarios speak of their times, regarding the need to vet honestly – along with God’s protective/redemptive and prophetic blessings upon Abraham’s seed, we are mainly considering just the one that precedes Israel’s Exodus from Egypt.

Joseph became a chief governor of Egypt, which protected Israel’s household during famine (Genesis 45, 46). His position secured sojourner status for his brethren. In a sense, he sponsored their status as permitted sojourners. They were legally known/registered people, who were afforded the leased land of Goshen. However, after many years of blessing, these known/approved sojourners (these ger) in Egypt were oppressed. They were oppressed for 400 years.

Let’s not forget the very personal side to God’s reminder of Israel’s slavery, by way of how Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. They betrayed him, by way of perverted judgment. Such is the very description of the molestation that God commands against: in Leviticus 19:33 (YLT)

“And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. 34) But the stranger that ‘dwells’ with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

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The slavery that Israel suffered was God’s chastening for their betrayal of Joseph. As Joseph’s brothers betrayed his standing with them, Egypt betrayed Israel’s standing.

It should be noted, here, how Joseph humbly sidestepped his brethren’s hinted concern of Yahweh’s retribution, in Gen. 50:15-21. Starting with verse 15)

“15) And when Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will perhaps hate us, and will certainly pay back to us all the evil which we did unto him. 16) And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, your father did command before he died, saying, 17) So shall you say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray you now, the trespass of your brothers, and their sin; for they did unto you evil: and now, we pray you, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father. And Joseph wept when they spoke unto him.  18) And his brothers also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we are your servants. 19) And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20) But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save many people alive. 21) Now therefore fear not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spoke kindly unto them.”

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Joseph may also have known of God’s 400 year slavery pronouncement to Abraham (Gen. 15:13-14) but Joseph did not betray his brothers. Family love obligated him.

A needed observation should be made here, also. All of Joseph’s brothers pledged themselves to be his servants. Here, then, is yet another key tie between the class of approved sojourning subjects and the brotherly-treatment rule.

This was the main reason why Israel was not to likewise oppress vetted/approved and honest sojourners. It’s as simple as that. There had to be law breaking for there to be distress placed upon permitted sojourners. The Hivites were recipients of this covenantal arrangement: in this respect, they were to be treated “as one born unto them.” 

Calvin and Culture: Exploring a Worldview
Ed. by David Hall

No other Christian teachings in the past five hundred years have affected our Western culture as deeply as the worldview of John Calvin. It extends far beyond the theological disciplines.

See more study materials at:

Observations on recent online debates

What follows here are some continuing notes from Facebook dialogues, along with lexical studies and supplemental observations. After this a few linked observations from Peter Leithart, James Hoffmeier, and Bojidar Marinov will also be briefly considered. I will then, afterwards, provide a summary of observations.

In a posting from Facebook, a person, arguing OPEN BORDERS posited Deuteronomy 23:15. I’m including a response to this, to showcase normal and serious interactions of Israel with the known (vetted) sojourner of the land. A more lexical approach is therefore ensued, here. I hope, thereby, to also show the gain of being a known/vetted permitted stranger (a sojourner). It was the same gain as enjoyed by the Gibeonites. Here is a Bible Hub reference of that passage (my apologies for not plastering this article with ‘printed’ references).

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This Deuteronomy 23:15 passage (as presented) deals with the sanctuary city rule that was first provided to all Israelites, as well as to an already established sojourner. Notice that he is a servant of an Israelite and has status; therefore he is not to be oppressed, even for his class.

Joshua 20:1-9 gives us the full picture | |. Sanctuary cities are first for an Israelite, who may be presumed guilty by an avenger of blood. A foreign “assimilated” slave may also flee to this city. Also, an established sojourning stranger (a ‘ger’ גֵּ֤ר | ) can also flee here. This was for safe refuge by citizen and permitted sojourner alike. The Deuteronomy passage, however, does not say from what situation (or way) that fleeing servant came from. He may very well have been implicated in the death of another slave or family member of the master. This is observation of one Law for all.

Some have argued that protected treatment in the land is general proof of no restriction. I believe this actually showcases unprejudiced justice for distinct classes; therefore, discernment of non-sojourning strangers was expected, especially when we consider the worth of the vetting that Joshua gave the status-gaining Gibeonites.

The main issue is in meeting the standards/requirements of being in league with Israel (in subjugation in this case). Now, in Leviticus 25:39-45  we learn an Israelite can be indentured to another Israelite; but they may not be enslaved in the same manner as a former combatant (e.g. an assimilated foreigner-of-war, who indeed is still not a fully-subjugated stranger – הַגוֹ ים | ). So then, another distinction is again noted.

Lev. 25:47 also speaks of how a sojourning rich permitted-stranger (a ‘ger’ – גֵּ֤ר) can receive a poor Israelite as an indentured servant, with an obligation to release them later. You need known sojourner status, for all this observance. The only guarantee of protection is for those who are ‘ger’ (along with kə·ṯō·wō·šāḇ – כְּתוֹ שָׁ֖ב ), who is like a hired servant ( כְּ ש כִ֥יר – kə·śā·ḵîr ), and none else. If anyone could hope to, please show such protection for any other type of stranger, such as ‘ben nekhar’, or ‘nokhri’ (an unvetted stranger). The difference shown in enslaving heathen (of the nations about) as bond-slaves, versus the ‘sojourning’ hired-servant (as I showed in Lev. 25:39-46), proves a distinction observed.

Notice, in Numbers 9:14 | | that the root of all words for stranger and sojourner are of ‘ger’ and ‘gur’. These only were afforded peace, according to this passage. The ‘nokhri’ or ben ‘nekhar’ were not presumptively afforded this, ever. One has yet to show me a convincing argument, with scripture, where they are. A far away ‘nokhri’ peoples, however, are allowed to entreat for peace and sojourner status, as we are yet to observe. As mere unvetted aliens, ‘nokhri’ have some latitude, whereas ‘nekhar’ do not.

The ‘ger’ was an assimilated Israel-compliant (non-inheriting) dwelling/sojourning-stranger. They also reflected the city-dwelling/sojourn-class of enslaved-Gibeonites, who all had regulatory dispatched-duties of overland servitude. By logic of scriptural-perspicuity, we can deduce that a captured/vetted non-sojourning hostile-alien (a ‘nekhar’) gets enslaved – at the least. ‘Nokhri,’ however, may travel to Israel (for the sake of being vetted).

In his ‘First Things’ article, Peter Leithart says the sojourning stranger “has permission” and is not an illegal alien.

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Please take note that I whole-heartedly champion how the permitted stranger should not be treacherously mistreated and/or oppressed (“vexed”).  A level of Justice should also be allowed for any non-vetted stranger (even ‘nokhri’); however, they do not automatically have the presumed freedoms (of ‘peace’) as does a ‘ger’. There is a permission factor present here that distinguishes the two.

Notice, again, what the ‘stranger’ (‘ger’) adopts for this acceptance: subjugation to Israel’s rule of the land. Such requires a witnessed vetting, with stipulations that are agreed to, as Leithart should logically acknowledge (and I believe does). He can’t argue against, and I believe doesn’t so argue, that Israel’s permitted sojourner status is what Egypt violated. He should agree that this, along with the unbrotherly betrayal of Joseph, is the teachable history for Israel’s divine instruction to not betray (i.e. not molest) sojourner trust.

Further Lexical considerations and their significance

Here’s some additional lexical notes, in random order. Some have extended dialogues. After reading through the next several pages, it would be appropriate to ask yourself the following question: if the Open Borders hypothesis is correct, what purpose do these sophisticated distinctions and legislative determinations have? They certainly fit well within my view without modification or forced fitting. The burden of proof is on the other side to account for the scriptural distinctions listed below, not on me.

Leviticus 25:45 | | shows that a non-recognized sojourner (a non ger), a hat·tō·wō·šā·ḇîm ( הַתּוֹ ש בִ֜ים ), was not presumptively afforded protection. This was not of the ‘ger’/’gur’ class of known/resident sojourning strangers. Unassimilated heathen slaves were property and not indentured servants.  Lev. 25: 39-46| | prompts our attention, to such an understanding.

Notice the differentiation between bondservant (abed עָֽבֶד ) and hired servant (equal to sojourner ). Unvetted heathen aliens were not the same as the ‘ger’ class of sojourner. At no time is the ‘ger’ class of sojourner to be oppressed, or denied due process.  It should even be noted (in Judges 19) how a travelling Levite sought such refuge in Gibeah.[1]

I did find that there is another term for a respected sojourner, namely: kə·ṯō·wō·šāḇ ( כְּתוֹ שָׁ֖ב ), who is like a hired servant ( כְּ ש כִ֥יר kə·śā·ḵîr ). These are also the same as peculiarly permitted ‘ger’ sojourners and not to be merely regarded as heathen combative aliens.  Combative aliens (hag·gō·w·yim הַגוֹ ים – ‘of surrounding nations’) had no guaranteed right of passage. This is evidenced in that these combative heathens were often severely subjugated, through battle, and later oppressed as recognized bond-slaves. They lacked the same assimilated respect of permission, though the earning of respect (through assimilation) was still possible. Christianity has altered this mechanism somewhat; however, immigration border controls are still allowed by scripture for many national[2] reasons (cf. Lev. 25:39-46).

We should also take note of how, in Proverbs 27:13, a stranger (a ‘Zar’ > זָ֑ר) is to be discreetly comported with useful pledges. Such a safeguard is considered wise (Proverbs 27:13 ). This should answer any lingering questions about the requirement for exhibiting general regard for strangers. Exercising caution (prudence) is a good thing.

Covenantal Theonomy
(by Ken Gentry)
A defense of theonomic ethics against a leading Reformed critic. Engages many of the leading objections to theonomy.
See more study materials at:

Challenges to the thesis

On the 16th of February 2017, I received this Facebook notice from Martin Selbrede.[3]

“Victor, I noticed that the lexical argument you’ve mounted here (and elsewhere) has been challenged by at least one writer (Bojidar Marinov). I’d be curious how you would rebut the polemics presented in this link:

What Martin was referring to (if you trigger and read the above link | please do), was Bojidar Marinov’s critique of the work by Trinity International’s Professor James Hoffmeier | | “The Use and Abuse of the Bible in the Immigration Debate.”

The main critique that Mr. Marinov advances is premised upon a prayer of King Solomon for the stranger from afar. Mr. Marinov here believes that Israel was to somehow embrace the purported universal goodness of man. He proposes Solomon’s use of the word “nokhri” as proof of indiscriminate open arms.[4]

Yes, there was to be discretion of opportunity for gentile believers; however, it was not ever to be a foregone conclusion. I will flesh this out further below.

Again, please read Mr. Marinov’s entire Hoffmeier rebuttal (in the link, above). Here is the portion of Solomon’s prayer that Mr. Marinov posits, from 1 Kings 8, suggesting the word ‘nokhri’ as biblical license for open-borders. Starting at verse 41:

41) “Moreover concerning a stranger (“nokhri”), that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name’s sake; 42) (For they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand, and of thy stretched out arm;) when he shall come and pray toward this house; 43) Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger ‘calls’ to thee for: that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel; and that they may know that this house, which I have builded, is called by thy name.”

Marinov believes this passage exempts all immigrants from scrutiny.

The very clear indicator, in the relevant portion of this prayer, is that the “nokhri” term of status refers to the actual status rightly perceived at the time of departure for Israel, and not the subsequent status gained after a proper vetting. In such vetting (for even the Queen of Sheba) the status gained (afterward) would be “ger.” Before that occurs, she is still numbered among the “nokhri.” This is fairly straightforward, requiring no nuance to properly grasp. Also, “nekhar” bears the meaning of “disaster” while “nokhri” does not.

Solomon here emphasizes the evangelical power of conversion (with some weight of New Covenant prophecy in play). Therefore, he rightly uses the proper alien-status term “nokhri” (at departure) for the eventual “ger.” He chose the correct term for those starting the journey to the house of prayer for all peoples, but that status is not forever set in concrete once the pilgrims enter the land of promise.

Note that “nokhri” is even further differentiated from “nekhar.” “Nokhri” (meaning only a stranger that is not yet known as “heathen” or “sojourner” | check Strong’s) is what any “stranger” is first perceived as being by default prior to vetting. Therefore, in pleading for the Lord’s ear towards the converted stranger, Solomon simply continues using the same term to avoid confusion (to emphasize the marvelousness of future evangelism). Had he used “ger” in his prayer, the sense would have been incoherent: people who’ve never entered Israel before cannot be “ger.” The cart is before the horse.

There is also an intended non-specificity, since there was no sure knowledge of what other far-away strangers would convert. Solomon, and the Lord, did not want the people fixating only on those who were already sojourners. God was considering everyone/everywhere: He had His eyes set upon the world.

Further, this is a somewhat hypothetical event that Solomon prays about within the hearing of those attending his public petition. The King, with his God, wants the people to be waiting/watching and wise concerning the Lord’s work in a stranger’s heart. The Spirit of the Lord is in this prayer. Israel must thereby hope for the demonstration of favor, professed by the mere stranger, since following any obligated prerequisites would suffice as proof that they were not like earlier deceivers (i.e., the Gibeonites). The view I defend herein is self-consistent in these respects.

Mr. Marinov tries to make undue capital out of an entirely natural circumstance, exploiting it as if it were a lexical smoking gun, which we have just shown to be untrue. He would have to prove that the pilgrims never become “ger” upon arrival, but this crucial step in his argument is omitted.

His other argument about not abusing strangers, through mere vetting (i.e. discriminating discernment) for immigrant status, seems to discount Israel’s submission requirements for even far away countries (such as those we have already discussed). Along with the Decalogue, Israel laid upon new sojourners some ceremonial considerations (not all) within both camp/country and within the temple courts.[5]

Since this was Marinov’s central argument against Hoffmeier, we need go no further unless he later raises a better argument for his view. Absent this supposed prooftext for Marinov’s model, what remains is considerable latitude for any nation (let alone a Christian nation) to enforce border entry restrictions upon non-citizens.

American naturalization laws acknowledge this. U.S. naturalization is a vetted immigrant’s citizenry process.  It involves honest/registered (allowed/monitored) residence. This was put in place by George Washington in the Naturalization Act of 1790 but similar principles were enforced by the individual colonies prior to their union under the Constitution.


In this study we have pointed out how  Israel’s defense of Gibeon evidences how truly protected an actual/permitted sojourner was. If your hosts are willing to go to war to protect you and your families, that is hardly evidence that you were oppressed, betrayed, or vexed by the manner in which you entered that arrangement.

The Gibeonites were identified. Their place was known. They had a sojourner status that was under severe penalty of servanthood; thereby, with Yahweh’s explicit blessings and direction, they were defended by Israel. This was not molestation (perversion of justice), as we are also sure that God duly blessed Israel’s oath of sojourning status upon Gibeon.[6] Vetted allowance has benefits of obligated national goodwill, by sworn oath.

Please consider the weight of what I’m saying. Oaths of allowance are a decision process within vetting. America makes these responsible decisions every day. Many legal aliens prefer this avenue because they have good track records that they want recognized, and they don’t want the culture that they fled from to follow after them.

The Gibeonites had to also have considered all that befell them through that confirming vet.[7] They sided with Israel, and God blessed their endeavor which resulted in a trusted/protective indentured relationship. The Hivites changed cultures. Who knows, maybe the unsung hero of Ecclesiastes 9:13-15, was a Gibeonite.

These type of scenarios, though significantly of lesser magnitude, are likely played out on many a border. Being allowed into a preferred country, with known stipulations and benefits for gained trust, is a good thing to many peoples. There is trusted obligation to protect the honest immigrant.

Hopefully, none of today’s America-bound/vetted sojourners are found in need of similar punishment such as that suffered by the Gibeonites; however, if so, they may yet find mercy in their hapless “straightforward” attempts.

Let’s not thwart the good process that God has used for the blessing of many immigrants, both far and near, and both past and present. Why should the revisionist rose-colored bias of multicultural socialism have a place at the table in any discussion of immigration? Borders are protection for many immigrants, as was the case for the Gibeonites.

The Gibeonites asked for league to be made with Israel, and Joshua made league with them, believing them to be far-away sojourners, who sought peace with Israel.[8] A people seeking peace don’t mind proving it. Yes, the Gibeonites deceived, as was fully conceded earlier; however, they knew the stipulations and did seek to abide by them. Even though they chose against their former associations among the Canaanite nations, they were still subject to their new nation’s laws/judgment in regard to the misrepresentation they attempted.

There really ought not to be protest for a restriction on immigration because the vetting process is the means of discovering those who would do harm against those who would not. Though Christianity has changed much of the engagement on some of these issues, an Open Border policy cannot simply be assumed to be one of those changes. No biblical proscription against border control exists (which repositions the burden of proof upon those who claim otherwise). However, there are obligations to be discharged under oaths of protection. There is also an obligation to keep the Law of God in respect to all human life. America needs divine help here.

Whether one is caught as a supposed trespasser, or is a brother suspected of murder, a just trial of the case must ensue. This was expected throughout all of Israel: judicially (once within Israel’s jurisdictional boundaries), there can be no respect of persons.  A just weight and measure were the sworn obligation of Israel to all peoples (vetted or not) within their land, to the end that their inheritance not be voided.

Joshua met this obligation. He should be a model to us. When the borders of our nation are severely threatened with deception, and even of our own failings, we have the God-given liberty and requirement to protect our culture from subversion. Like Joshua, let us require and be obligated to one Law, administered equitably unto all who would honestly reside within our borders.

I believe it then is clear, that there is biblical allowance for nations to secure their borders through reasonable and non-oppressive immigration control.[9] This is most true for nations and peoples in theonomic, biblically-based cultures, regardless of what level of erosion has undermined that culture. More erosion in the name of a false magnanimity is not the answer to today’s pressing issues.

Gratitude expressed

Tremendous Thanks to both Ken Gentry and Martin Selbrede, for taking early notice of my shorter study.

Martin’s great help, in editing this writ, is also greatly appreciated.

There is lot more that The Book of Joshua, as well as all of scripture, has to say on the topic of immigration and of vetting. How much further the writ of this study may yet go is not fully ascertained by yours truly. I’ll rely on the good advice of Masters Gentry and Selbrede, to bring some ‘knowing’ on that matter.


[1] While true that the Levites were supposed to be distributed throughout Israel, note what is unique about this particular Levite: he is traveling.

[2] This is not a concession to statism, which amounts to a caricature of the position I’m defending. The borders of a nation delimit the domain over which the civil magistrate wields his sword: there is a change of jurisdiction as one passes over a national border, and this observation is biblical and not evidence of humanistic statism. Statism comes in with respect to the legislative content driving each jurisdiction. Leaping to this straw man accusation against national borders is unwarranted and amounts to a shortcut to evade grappling with more germane points.

[3] Martin’s interest is in having each side present the best possible case for its position, following Warfield’s dictum that on important matters we should we willing to listen to every plausible argument to arrive at the biblical truth.

[4] We can add in passing that “a house of prayer for all people” surely intimates that nokhri from afar would travel there to honor the living God (no differently than the queen of Sheba’s visit), but Israel has the sure right to ascertain that they were in fact coming to the house of God to worship Him rather than destroy His temple.

[5] The temple court boundaries constitute a jurisdictional microcosm that essentially mirrors the nation’s political borders: conditions had to be satisfied to pass through such boundaries. The dissolution of these religious boundaries when the temple curtain was torn upon Christ’s death did not alter the boundaries between nations.

[6] As referenced earlier, this construction arises by taking “we are your servants” as prima facie evidence for a desire to become sojourners. Opposing arguments have been considered above in the interest of completeness.

[7] It is a smokescreen to argue “but the vetting was flawed: Israel’s elders didn’t perceive who the Gibeonites really were!” This argument is raised to draw attention away from the fact that a vetting actually was attempted in good faith on Israel’s part. The defect wasn’t in the vetting process considered in itself. In a sinful world, no vetting can be perfect, and neither is justice this side of the Final Judgment perfect. Operating in terms of a counsel of despair hardly marks an argument as being a legitimate Christian viewpoint: our obligations are not up for grabs.

[8] The counter-arguments to this position have, in the interests of fairness, been considered earlier in this paper.

[9] The idea that immigration control is inherently oppressive, such as charged by Marinov, is an attempt to win an argument by redefining terms (on the principle that he who defines, wins). To be circumcised as an adult would be considered fairly vexing by today’s standards, and yet God is not a God of confusion when He required this of proselytes in the Old Covenant: if circumcising someone isn’t oppressive, then neither is vetting at the border.

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  1. Robert J. Macauley October 30, 2018 at 5:11 am

    We should welcome the stranger, not the invader.

  2. Victor Couture January 1, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    Yes, the vetted/welcomed stranger is one thereby ‘known’ to not be an enemy. They are committed to the covenant/cultural norms, of the country they seek to make home.

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