Aliens In Israel -- By: Josiah K. Bennet

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 013:51 (Jul 1856)
Article: Aliens In Israel
Author: Josiah K. Bennet

Aliens In Israel

Josiah K. Bennet

In recent times, not less, perhaps, than in past ages, attempts have been made to throw light upon obscure questions of public interest, by having recourse to the legislation of Moses. The practice of polygamy, for instance, has relied upon the Pentateuch for its strongest defences. The advocates of capital punishment draw arguments from the same source. Our usury laws are grounded on a Hebrew basis, and, but for that, would probably have ceased to exist in their present form. Slavery, too, seeks the venerable precedents of the Old Testament to justify its wrongs, and to silence opposition at least from the pulpit and the religious world. But there is another question, of great moment to us now, which appears to have been discussed hitherto with little reference to sacred precedents. It is a question which interests the church of God, no less than the state; the faithful minister, no less than the ambitious demagogue. It is, to the christian citizen, the inquiry: How, according to Scriptural authority, ought we to treat the strangers among us? To answer this inquiry, one naturally recurs to the law of Moses, and his application of it in the Hebrew government.

To a reflecting mind, the question readily arises, whether the Strangers’ Law, as it now exists in christian countries, however imperfect it may be, has, like some other branches of jurisprudence, grown up with the world, developing its principles by degrees to suit the necessities of commerce or the demands of religion; or whether it sprang into existence a perfect system, the embodiment of natural justice, animated by a living soul, which the spirit of God breathed into it in the commandment, Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.1

If it originated in the mere mercantile principle of self-love, which some philosophers have regarded as the root of nearly or quite all the regulations of society, its policy cannot be expected to be otherwise than exclusive. But if it came from benevolence, the fountain of justice, all unnecessary restraint upon the privileges of strangers must be contrary to its nature.

So far as the law of aliens among the Hebrews is concerned, the preceding questions are easily answered. But it may not be amiss to examine the subject somewhat minutely, to discover not only the general principles, but also the practical application of them in the Jewish government.

From the first, the Hebrew commonwealth maintained the most liberal policy towards foreigners.2 It would seem natural that two millions of slaves,

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