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In the Gates

Strangers and Sojourners

Strangers and Sojourners--"You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt."


The eighth commandment

Deuteronomy 24.17, 18

“‘You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge, but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.’”

Deuteronomy 10.18, 19; Malachi 3.5

Exodus 22.21-24

You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.”

Leviticus 19.33, 34

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

Deuteronomy 10.17-19

Exodus 23.9

You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”

God understood full well that Israel would be the envy of the nations (cf. Deut. 4.1-8). It was to be expected, therefore, that foreigners would be found within the borders of the nation from time to time. Some of these would be temporary – on official business, whether of commerce or state – while others might seek a longer-term status among the people.

All people from foreign nations were expected to abide by the laws of the Israel while they were within in the nation. And all Israelites were expected to show strangers and sojourners the same kind of neighbor love they were to give to one another. Israel’s own experience of being taken advantage of in a foreign land should remind them that this is not a condition pleasing to God.

In our country today foreigners continue to be attracted to the prospects of liberty and prosperity which abound in the nation. Restrictive immigration laws and the threat of terrorism have complicated entry to the nation and its opportunities, encourage oppression, law-breaking, and division within the population. We do not today have an immigration policy based on love for the sojourner, and many who come to America do so fully aware that their manner of entry is a violation of our laws.

Still, we might be able to find some guidance in these statutes guiding the people of Israel in how to make the most, for a just and prosperous society, of the inevitable presence of strangers and sojourners in our midst.

This series of In the Gates we present a detailed explanation of the Law of God, beginning with the Ten Commandments, and working through the statutes and rules that accompany each commandment. For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the practice of ethics, get The Ground for Christian Ethics by going to and click on our Book Store.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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