Nahum and the Problem of Illegal Immigration

In a recent essay, “Hillary Clinton Is on the Wrong Side of History,” Pastor Chuck Baldwin criticized Senator Clinton for trying to justify massive illegal immigration to this country by misusing Scripture and completely mischaracterizing the story of the Good Samaritan.

Pastor Baldwin said: “Obviously, there is nothing unique about politicians misusing the Scriptures. What the average politician knows about the Word of God could fit into a thimble. And that goes for Republicans as well as Democrats!”

And, it is sad to say, the same could apply to some pastors and teachers of the Bible.

Senator Clinton defended her opposition to a bill being considered by the House which would subject illegal aliens and those who hire them to criminal penalties by saying that the law was “not in keeping with my understanding of the Scriptures, because this bill would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably Jesus Himself.”

Pastor Baldwin explains that it is clear that there is nothing in the story of the Good Samaritan that is related to the issue of illegal immigration. The parable teaches compassion to people in need.

Then, Pastor Baldwin declares:

“However, if one wants to examine the Scriptures to find teachings relevant to the subject of illegal immigration, he can certainly do so. Let’s start with Nahum chapter three. The prophet Nahum warned Israel that their stubbornness and disobedience to God was evidenced by the fact that “the gates (borders, ports, entry ways) of thy land shall be set wide open unto thine enemies: the fire shall devour thy bars” (Nahum 3:13). In this passage, the prophet made it clear that open gates or borders, which allowed enemies easy access to a nation, constitute an imminent threat to any nation. How right he was!”

The only problem with Pastor Baldwin’s interpretation is that Nahum’s warning was not addressed to Israel. Nahum was not speaking about the stubbornness and disobedience of God’s people, nor on the issue of illegal immigration.

Nahum’s oracle is an ode celebrating the fall of the mighty Assyrian empire. Nahum is describing the dramatic events that led to the end of Assyrian domination of the Ancient Near East.

Nahum 3:11-13 describes Assyria’s inadequacy to defend Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire, against the Babylonian invasion. Nineveh, “the bloody city, full of lies and booty” (3:1), shall be like Thebes, the capital of Egypt’s Upper Kingdom: “Are you better than Thebes that sat by the Nile?” (3:8). The vulnerability of Nineveh is illustrated by the weakness of her protection: “Behold, your troops are women in your midst, The gates of your land are wide open to your foes, fire has devoured your bars” (Nahum 3:13).

What Nahum is proclaiming is that the fate of Nineveh is sealed: her brave warriors will be weak and unable to fight, the gates of the city will not be able to stop the invaders and the bars on the gates of the city will be burned with fire.

Nahum was right. What he said about Nineveh and the Assyrians came to pass just as he had prophesied. However, Nahum never warned Israel about their stubbornness and disobedience to God. He never proclaimed that Israel’s open borders would bring a flood of immigrants. In fact, Nahum 3:13 does not teach anything relevant to the subject of illegal immigration.

It is a fact that Senator Clinton misused Scripture and mischaracterized the story of the Good Samaritan to justify her views on illegal immigration to this country. However, there is no doubt that Pastor Baldwin also misused Scripture and mischaracterized the prophecies of Nahum to justify his own views on illegal immigration to this country.

Physician, heal thyself!

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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9 Responses to Nahum and the Problem of Illegal Immigration

  1. >”When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”–Leviticus 19:33-34 (NIV)This command from God should preclude all Christians and Jews from supporting the declaration of some 12 million “aliens” as felons, thus destroying the lives of millions of families and children, many of whom were born in the USA and are thus citizens.I could rant and rave much more, but this is a blog about the Bible, not political fire-breathing.’nuff said…


  2. >Dear Friend,I think you misunderstood the intent of my post. My intent was not to introduce a “political fire-breathing” argument, but only to show how the pastor misused the Scripture in the same way Senator Clinton did. This blog is still about the Bible. The pastor clearly misinterpreted the book of Nahum.Leviticus 19:33 is talking about a protected citizen in Israel, a ger, and not a nokri, a foreigner who is a citizen of another nation. Claude Mariottini


  3. >I apologize for the misunderstanding. I was not referring to your remarks as “political fire-breathing” but rather to my own remarks. In other words, I cut myself off before I got too carried away. I want to respect the fact that your blog revolves around the Bible and not political rantings, though the latter certainly have their place (on other blogs).


  4. >Dr. Mariottini,I am interested in a better understanding of whether there was such a thing as an “illegal” or “legal” immigrant in the Old Testament. I happened upon your blog and found this post very interesting, particularly your comment that Leviticus 19:33 is about a protected citizen vs. a foreigner. Is there a good reference on these kinds of details for someone like me who is trying to develop a Biblical perspective on immigration? Thanks.


  5. >Dear Sarah,Thank you for visiting my site. There is very little specific about the biblical view on emigration. If you desire to learn more about the biblical view on a similar topic, you should consult a good biblical dictionary and read articles on the “sojourner.” A sojourner was a legal alien who lived under the protection of the Israelite community. Check your local library for the Anchor Bible Dictionary, for the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, or any good Bible dictionary.Claude Mariottini


  6. >Where there Biblical Jewish laws restricting strangers from entering/exiting the Hebrews territory, other than when at war?


  7. >David,Thank you for visiting my blog.As far as I know, there were no laws restricting strangers from entering the land. The foreigners in Israel were called “sojourners.” There were many laws protecting sojourners but foreigners in Israel did not enjoy the same social recognition and did not have the same rights as did an Israelite citizen. This is the reason I said that the use of Nahum to criticize the problem of immigration in the USA was not a proper use of the biblical text.Claude Mariottini


  8. james says:

    >Dr. Mariottini,The subject of illegal immigration is more complicated than many think, as your own posts indicate (e.g. ‘protected citizens’ vs. ‘foreigners/citizen’s of other nations’, etc.).The Levitical command (19:33) is clear enough. All aliens, whether ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’ should be treated kindly especially by Christians! This command, as all others, is rooted in the great command to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ (Matt. 22:37-39). However, God established borders for a good reason (Gen. 11/Acts 17) and it is not loving for our government to allow people to flood in through those borders when such uncontrolled influx results in hardships to others (citizens) already residing here (e.g. the counties in Arizona, New Mexico, and Southern California that are suffering serious economic and social effects from illegal mexican immigrants). Love would have us treat the ones who do make it here illegally as those made in the image of GOD. Love would also have us protect our own citizens from hardship at the hands of others who are foreigners or citizens of other nations. Finally, love would have those seeking to come here illegally not come for their own interests at the expense of others.Although I am not prepared to cite the reference(s) now, there are biblical texts wherein GOD threatens Israel with porous borders if they do not repent for their national sins. I will look these up and post again. In sum, it seems clear to me that:1. GOD established borders and they should therefore be maintained by our own government;2. We should treat kindly (love) those who do come illegally (but hold them accountable to our immigration laws – which do not contradict the bible’s teaching on the legitimacy of national borders3. We should (out of love) protect our own citizens to the extent we do not sacrifice their own rights, privileges or property to accomodate foreigners that willfully break our laws — that means protect our borders.It is wise to maintain our borders and control immigration – it is good for the health of the nation economically and socially to do so and when a nation institutes policies for its citizens that benefit them, the policies glorify GOD so long as they do not contradict his laws. We are an immigrant nation, but have been able to prosper and grow through those who have come only by controlling with laws the influx of immigrants. To let the present state of affairs will eventuate in a third world country with more poverty than it has ever seen and that is not a blessing.Blessings to you!


  9. >James,I am from Brazil and I came to this country as a legal immigrant. I favor legal immigration and I am against those people who do not respect the laws of this country.I agree with your comments and I believe that the USA has a responsibility to itself and its citizens to control its borders and regulate who can come to this country legally.Thank you for visiting my blog.Claude Mariottini


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