Day 16 – Stranger Love

Numbers 20:14-21

Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, “Thus says your brother Israel: You know all the adversity that has befallen us: how our ancestors went down to Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians oppressed us and our ancestors; and when we cried to the Lord, he heard our voice, and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt; and here we are in Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory. Now let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink water from any well; we will go along the King’s Highway, not turning aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.”

But Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through, or we will come out with the sword against you.” The Israelites said to him, “We will stay on the highway; and if we drink of your water, we and our livestock, then we will pay for it. It is only a small matter; just let us pass through on foot.” But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against them with a large force, heavily armed. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through their territory; so Israel turned away from them.

Amos 1:11-12

Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because he pursued his brother with the sword and cast off all pity; he maintained his anger perpetually, and kept his wrath forever. So I will send a fire on Teman, and it shall devour the strongholds of Bozrah.

There’s a long history of mistrust behind this passage from the book of Numbers.  Edomites are the descendants of Esau, and the Israelites are the descendants of Jacob.  Jacob and Esau were competitive fraternal twins.  You may recall how Jacob connived to get the birthright and blessing that rightfully belonged to Esau as the older of the two.  Fast forward a few generations.  The descendants of Jacob show up at the border of Edom, seeking passage through Edomite territory on their way to a new home in Canaan.  Even though the Israelites give their word that they will not take advantage of their distant cousins, the Edomites refuse to welcome the Israelites and militarize the border to ensure that no one crosses.

But Edom’s lack of “welcome” has serious consequences.  For generations following, Israel and Edom are bitter enemies.  The prophet Amos references the incident and announces God’s judgment on Edom.

Questions for Reflection

What parallels (if any) do you see between the story of Edom and the history of U.S. immigration policy?

If a prophet of God were to review the “pity” of  the U.S. toward immigrants, what might (s)he say?



  1. Generations have passed since we were the immigrants (colonists), so we have forgotten the stories of what it is like to settle in a new land and be reliant on the people who live here for welcome. (Which itself is a complicated part of our history.) As a nation, I fear we would not be judged well. That overwhelms me, which is why I aim to do what I can. I want to be on the side of history that welcomed strangers and loved too much.

  2. Earlier this week, I had a discussion with a good friend about the political situation with specifics on immigration. She is all for immigration if done within the USA guidelines or “legally.” And there are others who have said the same thing, two of which did everything legally to become USA residents, one who is now a naturalized citizen, the other now with a green card. So I have an understanding on both sides of the immigration issue. Then there are questions about aliens-illegal immigrants, and refugees. This becomes very complicated. I want to be on the side of compassion and love. As a country, we are not on the side of compassion, but on the side of strict right or wrong, and depending on who is in control politically, that is how the country goes. God, help us who are your followers be on the side of compassion/love.

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