Have you ever noticed how the Bible is often cited as the inspiration for ideas from people who otherwise have no use for the Holy Scriptures?

On no issue is this more evident than immigration policy. And, lately, more and more defenders of the establishment of “sanctuary cities” are claiming to find precedent in their determined obstruction of the nation’s immigration laws in the book of Numbers.

Is there any truth to what they say?

Let’s first examine what the Bible has to say about “cities of refugee,” the biblical idea so many “sanctuary cities” claim inspired the idea of protecting illegal immigrants from federal prosecution and deportation efforts.

The concept of “cities of refuge” is first mentioned in Numbers 35:11 – a book rarely consulted for illumination by today’s secularist “progressives.”

Ancient Israel did not incarcerate people for crimes. There were no prisons. Capital punishment was prescribed for certain offenses, which proved to be a real discouragement to most crime – from murder to adultery to violating the Sabbath.

The concept of “cities of refuge” was quite narrow. There were six of them – the same cities reserved for the tribe of Levites, the priestly tribe, which were intermingled among other 11 tribes that had been apportioned vast swaths of the Promised Land.

The sole purpose of the “cities of refuge” was to offer safe harbor for those citizens who had inadvertently or unintentionally killed someone. Since the death penalty was reserved for those who committed an act of murder, the “cities of refuge” were designed to protect those who had accidentally killed a neighbor from retribution by an angry relative.

People from any tribe who found themselves in such a situation were encouraged to flee to one of the “cities of refuge” where they would be protected from a revenge crime, as long as they remained in that city until the death of the high priest, when, presumably, the anger of relatives would have subsided.

That’s it. That was the only reason for the “cities of refuge.” It didn’t have anything to do with immigration. It didn’t have anything to do with other offenses. It didn’t have anything to do with non-Israelis.

Yet, one wag, writing for the biblically illiterate but “progressively” doctrinaire HuffPost, concluded: “I shall show that some of the U.S. cities disparagingly labeled ‘sanctuary cities’ by their critics are actually contemporary versions of biblically mandated cities of refuge.” Of course, he showed no such thing.

Just as biblical “cities of refuge” had extremely limited scope, dealing only with one particular kind of offense, so are “sanctuary cities” peculiarly restricted in their focus. The promoters of these policies claim to be motivated by humanitarian principles and the desire to offer sanctuary from prosecution for one kind of offense and one kind only – violating national immigration laws.

Think about this for a minute. Why immigration laws? I don’t want to give “sanctuary city” advocates any ideas, but why not other offenses? Why not these?

  • those who violate federal tax laws;
  • those who violate federal gun laws;
  • those who violate election laws?
  • those who violate federal securities laws?
  • those who violate federal interstate commerce laws?
  • those who violate federal environmental laws?
  • those who violate antitrust laws?
  • those who violate federal corruption statutes?

Why the selectivity?

Is the protection of immigration criminals just the first step? Do cities and states have the power to ignore some federal laws and not others? Do they have the authority under the Constitution to pick and choose which federal laws they cooperate with and subvert others? Wasn’t the U.S. Civil War fought over that idea, resulting in the deaths of 750,000 soldiers and an untold number of civilians?

For the life of me, I don’t know why those who oppose the lawlessness of “sanctuary cities” policies never raise this question. If it is a humanitarian idea to block prosecution of immigration laws, why not block the prosecution of other federal laws?

Let’s take this a step further.

Why is it that the very same “progressives” who argue against enforcement of national immigration laws and actually block their enforcement insist that states don’t have the power to make their own laws on matters of conscience such as the killing of unborn children? Why do they insist that everyone, across state lines, participate in such matters through federal funding?

In fact, what “sanctuary cities” policies represent is a kind of community act of civil disobedience.

Do cities have the legal power to rebel against federal laws through such actions? If left unchallenged, would “sanctuary cities” not create a precedent for anarchy and rebellion?

I think the federal government asserts far more authority than the Constitution permits. Yet the federal government unquestionably has the power to determine who enters the country and who doesn’t, just as it bears the responsibility to defend the nation from attack.

Yet “progressives” who defend “sanctuary cities” seem to be completely inconsistent about the power of the federal government.

It comes down to this with “progressives”: When they’re in control of the federal government, it has unlimited power. When they’re not in charge in Washington, the cities they rule over for life can and will be used selectively to obstruct the enforcement of federal laws they don’t like.

And they will even cite the “higher authority” of the Bible they so often disparage to make their moral case.

Do I have that about right?

Get Joseph Farah’s new book, “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians, and the End of the Age,” and learn about the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith and your future in God’s Kingdom

Media wishing to interview Joseph Farah, please contact [email protected].

Receive Joseph Farah's daily commentaries in your email

BONUS: By signing up for Joseph Farah’s alerts, you will also be signed up for news and special offers from WND via email.
  • Where we will email your daily updates
  • A valid zip code or postal code is required
  • Click the button below to sign up for Joseph Farah's daily commentaries by email, and keep up to date with special offers from WND. You may change your email preferences at any time.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.