Numbers USA’s Bible study doesn’t quote the Bible

Numbers USA’s head, James Robb, posted his great news that “Leading Evangelicals Show that Bible Has Been Misinterpreted”. That is, he means, by people like me, who don’t see alligator-infested border moats in the Bible.

He exudes,

This year, churchgoers are fortunate to have access to a much different explanation of scripture, thanks to the emergence of a group called Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration, and to a fascinating panel recently sponsored by the Heritage Foundation to inform congressional staffers and the media. Kelly Monroe Kullberg, who has organized Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration, is a highly respected evangelical leader. She founded the Veritas Forum at Harvard University in the 1990s, which has since grown into a world-wide movement. Her critique of the sloppy handling of Scripture used by some clergy is irenic [conciliatory] yet wide-ranging.

bibleI would love to tell you all the Bible verses that Kullberg quoted on her EBI website, and in her talk at the Heritage forum, to show God’s disfavor of S744. I would love to quote all those verses, and address them one by one. Unfortunately, she didn’t quote any, and I don’t want to put words in her mouth.

Not one verse! Her “Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration” website doesn’t quote a single verse about immigration! At least not that I could find. I did find one passage mentioned: 1 Timothy 5, on the subject of taking care of widows. The exact verse where this is supposed to be addressed is not given, and the wording of the verse is not given. We are told only that God has something to say about taking care of widows. Exactly what and where, we are left to investigate for ourselves. Regarding what that has to do with immigration, we are invited to get our own stretchy straps to tie them together.

By Dave Leach – This article was originally posted at a now-inoperable website,, on January 2, 2014. It is being reposted here on April 30, 2018. 

This leaves me to wonder what she means by “the sloppy handling of Scripture used by some clergy”. Does she consider it “the sloppy handling of Scripture” to actually quoteScripture? I would have thought it “sloppy handling of Scripture” to create a website offering a Biblical political agenda that doesn’t quote the Bible, but that’s just me.

She does quote a couple of Hebrew words found in the Bible, and tells us what they mean. She doesn’t tell us how she knows that is what they mean. She doesn’t quote any Bible lexicons, or tell us in what verses they appear so we can decide from context what they must mean. It is not even crystal clear how, if that is what they mean, that would enlighten immigration debate.

“God loves us all. God invites us all to be citizens in his kingdom. He places us in families, tribes and nations, and gives us biblical wisdom about shaping a thriving culture. Like gardening, growing a culture requires discernment and vision. But nowhere in Scripture do we see blanket asylum, blanket amnesty, blanket immigration. We see wise welcome to a well-meaning Ruth or Rahab (the sojourner or ‘ger’ in Hebrew is something like a convert and comes lawfully, as blessing), and we also at times find a Nehemiah leading his nation in the building of walls to cultivate the good and to be set apart from the ways of the ‘foreigner’ (the ‘nekhar’ or ‘zar’) who does not respect the laws, customs and values of the country visited — who does not intend to advance cultural flourishing.”

I would love to summarize how she explains that “ger…is something like a convert”, or that the “nekhar…does not respect the laws, customs and values of the country visited”, but she doesn’t explain it, and I don’t want to put words in her mouth. I don’t remember reading those definitions in any of my Hebrew lexicons, and I can’t think of a verse whose context encourages such a meaning. (Here is my own study containing the definitions of these words in all my Hebrew lexicons, and every verse in which these words are written, so we can study their contexts.)

I am incredulous that she actually says “nowhere in Scripture do we see blanket asylum, blanket amnesty, blanket immigration.” Nowhere in Scripture are there any God-approved restrictions on immigration whatsoever! All our restrictions directly violate the laws of God, Who commands all who want to obey Him, once they are here:

“Leviticus 19:33 And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex [deport]  him. But the stranger that dwelleth 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: [today, we would say “for your own ancestors were immigrants”; see also Luke 11:46] I amthe LORD your God.”

But the biggest problem with Kullberg’s little paragraph, quoted in Numbers USA, is that she implies Ruth was described by the Hebrew word “ger”, but in fact in Ruth 2:10 she calls herself a “nokry”, a form of “nekhar”. For those of you without your own Hebrew text, lexicon or Strong’s Concordance, here’s where you can confirm that. Scroll down to where the English text in the left column says “that thou shouldest take knowledge”. This is “nakar”, another form of the word. The Strong’s Concordance number is H5234. Then next, “of me, seeing I am a stranger?” This is “nokriy”, Strong’s number H5237. This is a long way from “ger”. The actual Hebrew word “nekar” is H5236. (Kullberg spells it differently than Strong’s, but it’s the same word.) The definitions of “nekar” (H5236)  and “nokriy” (H5237)  are virtually identical. They say nothing about disrespect for law. And if that is what Ruth, a Bible hero and model love story, called herself, how can the word mean the kind of immigrant we should not welcome? (More lexicons are in my own Bible study here.)

Robb quotes another expert:

“Dr. James K. Hoffmeier…takes a dim view of current Evangelical leaders who misuse Scripture for political ends. … ‘Under biblical law, a ger was legally recognized and entitled to certain rights, responsibilities and social benefits. They could participate in community worship. They were expected to observe kosher dietary laws. And, they could not be charged interest. People who are using scripture for the undocumented immigrant are trying to credit the non-legal resident with the same rights the biblical law calls for a legal foreign resident,’ he said.”

You have just read the closest the Numbers USA article has to anything about the Bible. All the rest of it is the kind of moralizing which restrictionist politicians do all the time without ever quoting the Bible.

I bought, read, and analyzed Hoffmeier’s book. He writes,

The words ger and nekhar refer to two different categories of people….The two cannot be confused….advocates for illegal immigrants [talk as if they] have the exact same meaning….” (p. 49)


Hoffmeier’s theory leads him to think Ruth must have been confused when she called herself a “nekhar”. At least he acknowledges that is what she calls herself in Ruth 2:10. He writes:

“It is curious that she [Ruth] calls herself a “foreigner” (nokheriah, literally “a foreign woman”) when she seems to fit the classic definition of an alien (ger). …Perhaps Ruth did not realize that in Israel, thanks to the special protective status of the alien in biblical law, she had a right to glean the fields. Alternatively, she may have used the term in a self-deprecating manner in order to accentuate the generosity of Boaz.” (p. 105)

The first thing to notice is that Hoffmeier does not agree with Kullberg that “nokriy” (Strong’s spelling) means an immigrant without respect for law! He defines it merely as “a foreign woman”.

Second, he recognizes that his theory, throughout his book, that “ger” and “nekhar” describe immigrants with different sets of rights, runs into a problem when Ruth called herself the kind which Hoffmeier has been saying is without rights.

Third, it is inconceivable that Ruth, coached by her very well informed mother-in-law Naomi, who had asked Naomi at the beginning of the chapter for permission to go glean and had received it, would not know she had a right to glean!

Fourth, it turns Biblical interpretation upside down to imagine that Ruth said something she knew was untrue, just to be polite. Hoffmeier’s kind of freedom to reinterpret the Bible on the basis of imagined motives not hinted at in the text makes it quite a challenge to treat the Bible as inspired by God and more trustworthy than the writings of any man. How could we know which verses God wants us to turn upside down?

It makes more sense to assume Ruth called herself a foreigner because she was, and to assume the words don’t mean anything more insidious than Hebrew lexicons say they mean.

Hoffmeier’s book, “The Immigration Crisis”, cites a few verses containing “nekhar” in which, if we had no Hebrew lexicons, we might surmise the word means a foreigner with no desire to settle. He compared them with verses suggesting “ger” means an immigrant settling down. ‘

“Additionally, we examined in detail the Hebrew terms for alien (ger) and foreigner (nekhar and zar). The ger, it is evident, was an immigrant who took up residence in a foreign land with the permission of a host.” (p. 156)

He gives two examples of how “ger” have slightly more protection in Moses’ law than “nekhar”. Then on page 73 & 150 he generalizes, taking those fairly trivial differences as precedent for us, today, to treat the two groups profoundly differently.

“…the ger had legal standing in the community and therefore was afforded protection and had rights. The same is not true for the foreigner, i.e., the nekhar or zar who lacked legal status and therefore is not mentioned anywhere in the Law as having these benefits. This is a salient point in the current debate about aliens and illegal immigrants in America, especially for those who look to the Bible to establish their position on how illegal aliens should be treated by the legal system.” (p. 73)

“As I have shown in earlier chapters, biblical law does differentiate the legal alien (ger) from the foreigner (nekhar) who does not have resident status (see Chapters 2–4). While the former could receive social benefits under the Torah, the latter was excluded.” (p. 150)

One irony he misses is that while his interpretation gives more rights to the immigrant who wants to settle down, America’s policy today gives far more rights to the foreigner who just comes to visit, do business, or take a vacation!

Hoffmeier says the fact Joseph sought Pharaoh’s permission for his family to move to Egypt proves God wants His People to restrict immigrants from coming without His People’s permission. He mentions other ruthless pagan nations who refused permission for Israel to cross their borders, and he actually took those wicked actions of ruthless pagans, whom God then judged, as precedent for America to refuse permission for immigrants to come! (p. 156)

Watch this verbal sleight of hand:

Nowhere in the Old Testament is there any sense that a nation had to accept immigrants, nor was being received as an alien a right….”

Sorry to interrupt, but as I said before, nowhere in Scripture are there any God-approved restrictions on immigration whatsoever! All our restrictions directly violate the laws of God! OK, now back to Hoffmeier:

“…That permission was required for a foreigner to reside in another land is illustrated in the case of Jacob’s family who via Joseph (an official in Pharaoh’s court) received permission to sojourn in Egypt (Gen. 45:16–20)…”

In other words, Hoffmeier’s precedent for laws restricting immigration is not God’s laws, but the laws of ruthless pagan nations!

The God-ordained borders of Israel are listed in chapter 2. Hoffmeier says the pagan nations who attacked Israel rather than allow Israel to cross their borders in peace, even after Moses offered to pay for crossing, proves nations have a right to defend their borders as they see fit. Are, indeed, the unreasonable, ruthless aggressions of pagans God’s pattern for us? Wouldn’t a better model for us be how Moses treated foreigners, not how foreigners treated Moses?

When enemy armies “defended their borders” in violation of God’s Will, God wiped them out. Doesn’t that discredit any legitimacy to their “right” to defend their borders as they see fit? Doesn’t that warn us against similarly defending our borders without respect for God’s Will?

Hoffmeier wrote as if the very acknowledgment of national borders by God is relevant to immigration issues. But who disputes whether we should have borders? Isn’t the issue God’s vision of who and how many we should let cross them, by what criteria, and under what conditions? Moses defeated the armies of nations who refused to let God’s people cross them in peace. Let us avoid that judgment!

Hoffmeier said the Egyptians built forts at bodies of water so immigrants would have to “beg for water…in order to let their flocks drink.” (Page 41)

Hoffmeier appears to present this as God’s model for us. The Egyptians were a people judged! How were they a safe role model for us? How is wanting others to beg, for a natural resource God has given you in abundance, a motive for anyone who is heaven bound?

Yet isn’t that exactly what we do today? We have freedom, prosperity, and land in abundance, our sharing of which only enriches us according to most economists, and yet we make fictitious claims that our “jobs” are limited so we pile inhuman burdens upon all applicants, make them crawl to us, and even then we deny liberty to 99% of applicants.

I suppose back then they invented myths, too, that their lakes would dry up if they let immigrants drink from them without begging first!

(Coming soon: my book review of “The Immigration Crisis” by James Hoffmeier. I would post it now but it’s 18 pages.)

The Numbers USA article did not say who was thought to handle Scripture carelessly. Surely top on their list was the Evangelical Immigration Table  which quotes a shocking 40 (count ‘em) 40 Bible verses on its website, without even apologizing! The group is a pro-reform coalition of over 150 organizations such as Focus on the Family, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Christian legal group Liberty Counsel. They have an action action project,  which includes a toolkit  including 40 passages from the Bible. On their website, the references are given but you have to look up the verses. I have printed out the verses on page 15-16 of my own Bible study on immigration.

Coming: Part 2 – Christian consensus that it mishandles Scripture, to quote it

Update: right after I posted this article, NumbersUSA’s Mark Krikorian responded to it! With a vengeance!

Not with any of the Scriptures missing from his claim that God agrees with his immigration agenda; not with even one verse. And not even with any reasoning at all that attacks anything I said.

He answered with a tweet! A 140-character tweet! (Twitter expanded to 280 in 2017.) What can you do in 140 characters? You can do a “personal attack”. Krikorian said in effect that because newspapers have trashed my reputation over legal briefs that I have written for prolifers, nothing I say about the Bible on any subject ought to be listened to!

I posted my response to Krikorian the second day after I posted this article. I explain what those briefs, and my articles related to them, were all about, and I go over a few Scriptures marveling that God authorizes lowly humans, the best of whom has a lousy reputation next to God’s, to represent Him anyway!

See Krikorian’s tweet and my response here. [This link is to the reposting of my response April 29, 2018 at because the website where it was originally posted has not been maintained; here is the original 2014 post. ]

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